Belfast Telegraph

Scottish loyalist group Regimental Blues will 'take over duties' at Belfast's Twaddell protest camp

By Rebecca Black

A Scottish group is set to take up a residency at the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast, it can be revealed.

The Glasgow-based Regimental Blues have published a statement claiming they will be "taking over duties" at the site from Friday.

Describing themselves as supporters of the loyalist community in Scotland, the group said they use various techniques when campaigning, including the internet and the "boots of our regiment on the street".

They hit the headlines earlier this year when they opposed the flying of an Irish tricolour on a Scottish council building and stood against a Bloody Sunday parade in Glasgow.

Now they are coming here to support north Belfast loyalists.

The Twaddell camp was set up in 2013 after three Orange lodges were refused permission for their return parade past the Ardoyne shops along the Crumlin Road on July 12.

Members of the lodges pledged to retain a presence until they were granted permission to stage the final leg.

This led to an outbreak of violent clashes, and a regular police presence has been retained there ever since, with the bill running into millions of pounds.

At the peak of the protest, the cost of policing the area was estimated at £333,000 a month, or around £11,000 a day, by Justice Minister David Ford before activity was scaled back.

The camp was originally manned 24 hours a day and included band parades in the area every evening, but almost three years later there is a much lower level of protest.

A rota of volunteers - including members of the DUP and PUP - maintain the camp.

Activities were scaled back last year when talks got under way to find a resolution to the long-running impasse.

A spokesman for the camp said activity was intentionally reduced to allow space during a "graduated response" initiative.

The spokesman added that after the search for a resolution failed, those at the camp were too disappointed to scale their activities up again.

They also insisted that the number of band parades was cut back after consultation with local residents.

However as the camp approaches its 1,000th day of protest next Thursday, April 7, the arrival of the Regimental Blues is part of an effort to make the campaign's presence felt again.

The Regimental Blues have announced they will bring 24/7 monitoring back to the area for seven days.

The camp spokesman said the organisation offered their services to help out and confirmed it was the first time that another group would take over.

Regimental Blues chairman Kris McGurk said his group would assume control on Friday.

Mr McGurk said the Twaddell camp was "a huge campaign for us and a very important one".

"There has been a huge amount of time, work and effort put in by our activists and by the camp committee," he added. "My thanks go to all involved.

"There seems to be a stand-off at the moment with no party willing to move.

"For me, this has been a huge contributing reason for putting together this campaign - loyalists in Belfast do not stand alone."

He added this would be the first time that the Regimental Blues have taken their campaigns to Belfast.

The organisation hit the headlines last month for campaigning against a proposal to fly the Irish tricolour at a North Lanarkshire Council building to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising and against a parade to remember those killed during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry.

Belfast Telegraph


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