Orange march in north Belfast passes peacefully
Hopes rise for a quieter summer after trouble-free Tour of the North
Signs for a peaceful marching season looked positive last night after a contentious parade in north Belfast passed off without incident.
The Tour of the North has in the past been marred with violent clashes between nationalist protesters and unionist band members and supporters.
Last night a heavy police presence enforced determinations issued by the Parades Commission.
Branches of the loyal orders gathered at Carlisle Circus before passing through Donegall Street and continuing their route.
Pockets of nationalist residents lined the route in protest over previous breaches of Parades Commission rulings.
A second residents' protest was held in the Duncairn Gardens area.
The commission last week ruled that the Ballysillan Orange Lodge was not allowed to parade along Woodvale Road and Crumlin Road between Woodvale Parade and Hesketh Road on the return route – the same route the Orange Order was stopped from returning along during last year's 12th of July parade.
Supporters were restricted from accompanying the parade as they passed St Patrick's Catholic Church on Donegall Street, and most bands heeded the ruling, which said they must only play a single drumbeat.
A restricted number of residents held a banner outside the church, which remained closed throughout the parade, reading 'Respect St Patrick's Church'. Speaking after the parade passed, North Belfast MLA Caral Ni Chuilin called for dialogue and resolution.
"There were a few breaches of the determination, which was regrettable," she said.
"We are in the marching season proper now and what we need rather than statements being made by political unionism about what is needed for the summer, is a call for dialogue and a call for resolution.
"The concern is there seems to be more parades than less, and I think we all need to use our leadership in a very positive way and try and get a positive resolution to this. This isn't what we need, we need regeneration, we need jobs, proper education and health.
"We need investment, and the money that is being spent on policing these parades is ridiculous."
Last year, a number of arrests were made during and after the parade, while there was also a controversial incident when Sinn Fein Assembly Member Gerry Kelly was driven a short distance while clinging to a police Land Rover.
Before this year's parade unionist and loyalist leaders met the Parades Comission, while First Minister Peter Robinson urged residents and marchers to "keep cool".
He added: "We look for people to keep cool in these circumstances to ensure that the traditions that are part of our culture are not tainted by violence. Of course people will be unhappy with some of the decisions of the Parades Commission, but I hope that the Orangemen have an enjoyable evening and that it is a peaceful occasion."
PSNI chief superindent Nigel Grimshaw said after last night's parade ended peacefully: "I am encouraged by the dignified and responsible way those involved in the parade and performing their protests behaved, and appreciate the efforts of all those involved in ensuring that this was the case.
"Moving forward, I would encourage everyone to work together to ensure that the remainder of the summer is peaceful and that local communities are not disrupted by violence that has occured in recent years."