Step back for sake of Ardoyne community, parade protesters told
A nationalist residents' group determined to defy an historic parades agreement at Ardoyne this weekend has been urged to reconsider its stance.
The Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (GARC) was told to "take a step back" and think again over its planned protests this evening and tomorrow morning.
Three Orange lodges have been granted permission to stage a return parade from July 12, 2013, early tomorrow morning, following an agreement with nationalist residents' group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association (CARA).
The deal ended a tense three-year stand-off and will lead to the dismantling of a loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue.
However, rival nationalist residents' group GARC opposes the deal, slamming it as a "Sinn Fein/UVF" agreement.
It has distributed leaflets throughout the greater Ardoyne area calling for residents to turn out for a demonstration against the deal tonight.
The leaflet calls for people to assemble at Estoril Park at 7pm for an "opportunity for residents to peacefully and radically demonstrate opposition to ongoing sectarian parades through our community and the SF/UVF deal being forced upon us".
GARC has applied to the Parades Commission to hold a parade with up to 500 participants, moving from Estoril Park to Ardoyne Road and finishing at Ardoyne Library on the Crumlin Road. The event is set to coincide with a loyalist protest parade due to take place at Twaddell Avenue at 7.30pm.
GARC has also applied to hold a protest in Ardoyne tomorrow at 7.30pm when the return Orange Order parade - agreed by the three lodges and CARA - is due to take place.
The Parades Commission has placed a number of restrictions on both demonstrations.
Tonight's parade may not go on to the Ardoyne or Crumlin roads and must proceed no further than the Balholm Drive junction with Estoril Park.
The commission has also ordered respectful behaviour and has banned singing, chanting and loud drumming.
Tomorrow morning's protest has been restricted to no more than 60 people. It will only be allowed on the footpath within a certain area and participants have been ordered to "refrain from using words or behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as intentionally sectarian, provocative, threatening, abusive, insulting or lewd".
GARC criticised the Parades Commission for the restrictions on its march and called for residents to show solidarity.
However, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said GARC should cancel its parade today.
"It is Sinn Fein's view that we need less evening parades in this area, not more," he added.
"If GARC genuinely had the interests of this community at heart, they would cancel the parade immediately."
SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon also urged GARC to think again. "Our advice to GARC is to reconsider their planned parade this Friday, take a step back and act in the interests of peace in our community," she said.
"There is a clear responsibility on all those in leadership positions in Ardoyne to exercise their authority within our community to ensure that this weekend passes off peacefully."
North Belfast has seen some of the worst post-Agreement rioting in Northern Ireland in the three years since the stand-off started, when three Orange lodges were barred from completing their return parade pass the Ardoyne shops on July 12, 2013.