Orange Order to protest over march route diversion

Thursday 11 July 2013 22.24
North Belfast Orange Order marching last December
North Belfast Orange Order marching last December

The Orange Order is planning to mount a series of protests over the traditional Twelfth period to show its opposition to a decision banning a parade past a sectarian flashpoint in north Belfast.

Orangemen claim the Parades Commission has created a crisis with its determination preventing the annual march in Ardoyne on 12 July.

They insisted that demonstrations against the controversial decision will be peaceful.

Senior Belfast Orangeman Spencer Beattie said: "We will no longer tolerate the vindictiveness of the Parades Commission and request that it is no longer recognised, acknowledged or engaged with by any member of the Unionist community." 

It is understood one of the protests will be held close to the disputed stretch of road in Ardoyne.

The Parades Commission has ruled that Orange Order members and bandsmen can walk on the contested stretch of Crumlin Road but for the first time has blocked their return march in the evening.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she did not expect PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to request her intervention to overturn the Commission's decision.

Speaking during a visit to a north Belfast peace and reconciliation centre, Ms Villiers appealed for calm heads over the coming days.

She said: "I would urge everyone to work for a peaceful Twelfth of July. I do not have a legal power to intervene the Parades Commission determination."

Democratic Unionist MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds was expelled from the Commons chamber after accusing Ms Villiers of "deliberate deception".

The DUP claims the minister could do more to tackle the issue and has recalled the Northern Ireland Assembly next week to discuss the impact of the Parades Commission decision on building a shared future.

An extra 630 police officers are being drafted in from forces across the UK to help the PSNI keep peace on the streets of Northern Ireland over the Twelfth.

Last year, officers were pelted with bricks, bottles and petrol bombs during clashes with rioters in Ardoyne.

Shots were also fired by a republican gunman hours after the Orange march had past the interface.

Dissident republicans have called off a protest march in Ardoyne tomorrow afternoon while another nationalist residents' group, the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association, also cancelled its morning protest in a bid to ease tensions.