Tensions rise ahead of Apprentice Boys march in Ardoyne area
Fears of a weekend of violence have heightened as relations between republican and loyalist community groups deteriorated just days before a contentious parade in north Belfast.
The Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) has revealed it is planning to protest at the Apprentice Boys feeder parade past Ardoyne on Saturday.
It has applied to the Parades Commission for permission for residents to protest during the contentious parade.
Loyalist community worker Winston Irvine, of the North and West Belfast Parades Forum, has warned that CARA’s protest application is a “very grave development”.
“We would ask the commission not to permit this. It is totally irresponsible of CARA, given the serious attempts on life on July 12,” said Mr Irvine.
Joe Marley from CARA said, however, that if the North and West Belfast Parades Forum “persist with this provocative feeder parade” the association would like local residents to show solidarity and take part in their “peaceful and dignified” protest.
News of CARA’s planned protest comes as the hardline residents’ group the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) — which was at the centre of an illegal sit-down protest on July 12, preceding four nights of rioting — insisted they will not be backing down on their plans to stage another protest at the weekend.
Dissident republican Martin Og Meehan, a member of GARC who was arrested and charged with obstructive sitting during last month’s protest, reissued a call for “nationalists and republicans everywhere” to come to north Belfast and join their “peaceful protest”.
Earlier this week the Parades Commission gave the go-ahead to allow the Apprentice Boys’ feeder parade to pass the Ardoyne shops.
But the controversial Shankill Star band, which traditionally carries a banner commemorating UVF gunman Brian Robinson, and its supporters are banned from going down the route alongside the marchers. Yesterday, however, parade organisers filed a new application to the Parades Commission to permit a replacement band, The Hillview Flute band, to walk the route.
The commission is due to meet today to discuss the application.
Mr Meehan said that even if Hillview Flute Band is also barred from walking the route, GARC will still be calling for protesters to join them on Saturday.
“People in this area do not want anything to do with these marches and would like to see them stopped.
“It is not about the actual band, it is the parade that is the issue here. These are sectarian marches.
“We have a right to protest if the community feels it is necessary.”
Mr Meehan insisted that the protest will be peaceful, adding: “We have demanded that anyone who wishes to cause violence to stay away.”
The PSNI is planning a major security operation at the march on Saturday amid concerns of a repeat of the July violence.