A planned “mass mobilisation” by republicans at a controversial north Belfast interface on the Twelfth has been called off.
However the group behind the call – the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) – warned that its power to summon such mass protests “should not be underestimated”, and reiterated its stance that no parades should be allowed in the area.
The move had been planned to coincide with a city-bound Orange parade at around 7.45am, which has been given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission; as opposed to the evening return parade, which has been barred.
GARC’s decision was welcomed by the SDLP, and came as a statement was read in the Woodvale area on Saturday on behalf of the three Ligoniel lodges at the heart of the dispute, warning of “consequences” if anyone tries to malign loyalist traditions (see above right).
The GARC statement said that it remains open to talks with the Loyal Orders, and that following an “intensive community consultation”, it had “decided to withdraw plans for a mass mobilisation to oppose the 12th morning parade”.
The statement continues: “This will help contribute to what we hope will be a conflict-free 12th of July, that will lead to a conducive environment for talks in coming weeks around securing the use of the Harmony Lane route (an alternative path for the parade which GARC has proposed).
“However, we will have a number of residents present at the 12th morning parade to monitor for any breaches of the Parades Commission determination.”
The statement elsewhere warns: “GARC have demonstrated our ability since 2010 to ensure that residents have the opportunity to participate in mass mobilisations of those opposed to sectarian parades, including sit-down protests, whiteline pickets and two counter parades attended by thousands of people...
“Our ability to again call thousands onto the streets to oppose either morning or evening parades should not be underestimated.”
SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness called it “a responsible and sensible contribution to reducing tensions and will hopefully encourage a peaceful Twelfth for everyone”.
Gerald Solinas, a key figure at the Twaddell Avenue loyalist camp, derided the idea of “thousands of people getting up and being bussed in to be offended at that time of the morning”, adding: “I think when they want to riot in the evening period they can get plenty of volunteers, but not early in the morning.”