Order accuses Parades Commission of provocation on eve of Haass talks

A protest at Woodvale in July
A protest at Woodvale in July

The Orange Order has accused the Parades Commission of “unsurpassed stupidity and arrogance” in light of a ruling preventing music being played during three protest parades next week.

Ligoneil Combine LOL will parade next Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Woodvale Road to Twaddell Avenue where members of the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist (PUL) community have been manning a protest camp since restrictions were imposed preventing the July 12 parade from completing its preferred route past the Ardoyne shops.

The Parades Commission determination prohibits music from being played between Twaddell Avenue and Woodvale Drive, at the junction of Twaddell Avenue and Crumlin Road.

Speaking after the rulings made for the parades next week, a spokesman for the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast accused the Commission of trying to get a reaction as talks on contentious issues including parading continue with former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass.

A statement released on Friday afternoon read: “In an act of unsurpassed stupidity and arrogance, even by the standards set by this Parades Commission over the years, they have banned music from being played by Protestant bands in a Protestant community where the Protestant residents have made no complaints. The question must be asked, Why?

“The determinations, unbelievably made on the eve of the Haass Talks, are clearly designed to provoke a reaction. This strategy dovetails into Sinn Fein’s unrelenting campaign to marginalise those involved in the peaceful protests as ‘dissident’ and ‘so called’ Loyalists.

“These determinations are desperate acts by the Commission, who knowing their days are numbered, seek to make themselves relevant through punitive, vengeful dictates against the Orange family. What is our response? The local lodges, bands and our supporters will continue to peacefully protest; the efforts of the Civil Rights Camp will be redoubled and our resolve strengthened to see this local 12th July parade completed.”

The spokesman went on to say that the lodge would be seeking an urgent meeting with the DUP, UUP, PUP and Ulster Political Research Group to overturn the rulings.

While admitting to understanding the frustration of many from the PUL community at the rulings, the spokesman encouraged a “peaceful, strategic and measured” response.

Among the notes made in the latest determinations the Parades Commission is said to be “becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of engagement between those organising and supporting these parades”.

DUP MP for north Belfast Nigel Dodds called the decisions “ridiculous”.

“The evening parades from Woodvale Road to Twaddell Avenue take place in an entirely Unionist area,” he said. “They have been peaceful throughout and are a legitimate form of peaceful protest in support of the Ligoniel lodges and bands.

“People have the right to make their views known. What are we coming to, that the Parades Commission will not permit these lawful demonstrations within the Unionist community to take place without restriction?”