A senior police commander has expressed optimism that the height of Northern Ireland’s loyal order marching season can pass off peacefully.
The PSNI officer in charge of the policing operation, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, said tensions ahead of the traditional Twelfth Of July parades were not as marked as in previous years.
A deal to resolve the Province’s most volatile parading impasse – at the Ardoyne/Twaddell Avenue interface in north Belfast – collapsed last month.
However, the breakdown of negotiations between the Orange Order and nationalist residents in the Ardoyne area was not accompanied by recriminations.
A protest camp has been manned in the unionist Twaddell Avenue area since the Orange Order was banned by the Parades Commission from marching through Ardoyne on its return from Twelfth Of July demonstrations in 2013. The interface has been the scene of rioting and unrest during the marching season for years.
Briefing members of the Policing Board in Belfast, AAC Martin noted that a number of major summer loyal order parades have already passed off without incident, and that the vast majority on July 12 would do likewise.
“There is a sense of a reduced tension this year compared with last year,” he said.
“We were all disappointed that the community resolution to the Twaddell impasse was unsuccessful but I think it was really positive the level of engagement that was going on there and, even though it was unsuccessful at this point, people have been very mature and very responsible in their words after that and I would hope that can get that revisited in the weeks and months that lie ahead.”
On Wednesday night, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) said it had distributed 500 leaflets door-to-door in the area urging residents to resist any compromise deal – between the less militant CARA group and the Orange Order – that could end the Ardoyne/Twaddell impasse.