Belfast Telegraph

Twaddell camp dismantled as Orange parade past Ardoyne shops in north Belfast passes off peacefully

Orange Order lodges have marched past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast ending a long-running parading dispute.

Permission for the contentious procession past the nationalist Ardoyne in north Belfast was granted after an historic deal between the loyal orders and  nationalist residents' group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association.

The Parades Commission - a Government-appointed adjudication body - ruled Orangemen from three lodges could march along the contested stretch of Crumlin Road under strict conditions from 8.30am.

The deal ended a tense three-year stand-off and will lead to the dismantling of a loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue set up in 2013. The three-year Twaddell protest has cost over £21 million to police.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland mounted a significant security operation with more than 600 officers on duty to enforce the Commission's determination plus an air support unit.

The landmark accord between the Orange Order and the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association (Cara) was struck after protracted negotiations, mediated by cleric Reverend Harold Good and businessman Jim Roddy.

It allowed Orangemen and two bands to complete the outstanding leg of their 2013 Twelfth of July commemorations past a sectarian flashpoint where serious rioting has erupted in the past.

It was agreed that bands would only play hymns as marchers pass the disputed section at Ardoyne while the lodges would limit the number of banners on display.

A so-called protest loyalist camp in the nearby Twaddell area will now be dismantled as soon as the demonstration reaches its end destination.

In return, the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Group (CARA) did not request Parades Commission permission for a protest.

Going forward, the lodges have agreed not to apply for any more return parades on the Twelfth until a wider agreement on the issue is reached. Cara will not protest at the lodges' already permitted outward parade on the morning of the Twelfth.

A local community forum including representatives of Cara and the loyal orders will also be convened with the aim of improving community relations in the area.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "This particular parade impasse in north Belfast has been running for over three years and I'd like to thank all of the police officers, who were present in north Belfast on a daily basis to serve and protect the community.

"On a number of occasions these officers were attacked by violent dissident republicans intent on killing. But undeterred officers continued to serve the local community. I want to thank them for their resolve and commitment to policing with the community."

'Watershed moment'

Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Frank Sellar, welcomed the completion of the return parade.

Dr Sellar also welcomed the peaceful nature of the preceding protest parade by some residents opposed to the Twaddell Avenue agreement.

"Today has been a watershed moment for North Belfast and the community in and around Twaddell Avenue in particular. Given the tensions involved and violence that repeatedly marked this event in the past, what took place this morning brings with it genuine hope for the future.

"I appreciate that not everyone in the community agreed with what has taken place today. I respect that and welcome the peaceful nature of their protest that preceded the return parade to Ligoniel Orange Hall.

"For many in the area, this particular chapter is now closed and I hope what has transpired becomes as a catalyst for a new beginning in inter-community relations.

"Just as the agreement took dedication, patience and persistence of all involved, I urge that the same energy now be invested in the coming weeks, months and years to the strengthening of relationships in the area.

"For this reason, and not minimising the challenges ahead, I give thanks for what took place today and the hope, I believe, it signifies for the future."

Orange Order calls for reform of parades legislation

Deputy Grand Master of the Orange Order in Belfast, Spencer Beattie, said: "Today there is a sense of relief that our civil and religious liberties have been restored.

"The agreement reached did not come easy, but it is founded on mutual tolerance and respect.

"The outworking of this agreement took place in spite of the Parades Commission," he said.

"Indeed, the Commission's actions throughout this long process have only served to impede progress.

"The current legislation, and those who impose it, were established to appease one community, rather than create a level playing field for all.

"Today, I would urge Mr Brokenshire (the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) to maximise and utilise this new opportunity created by today's resolution to make the changes required."

A protest by the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (GARC) against the parade passed off peacefully on Friday evening.

GARC slammed the deal as a "Sinn Fein/UVF" agreement.

It distributed leaflets throughout the greater Ardoyne area calling for residents to turn out for a demonstration against the deal on Friday night.

More: Step back for sake of Ardoyne community, parade protesters told

GARC also applied to hold a protest during the Orange Order parade, which the Parades Commission placed a number of restrictions.

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.

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