The first of two Orange Order protest parades in north Belfast today is taking place to show frustration at the latest Parades Commission determination, a leading member of the Order has said.
Following conciliatory moves by the Ligoniel lodges, still hoping to complete their July 12 parade back to their Orange hall, there had been hopes of a limited parade along the section of road deemed out of bounds by the commission.
Three lodges were prevented from walking home along a stretch of the Crumlin Road past the Ardoyne shopfronts last July and have staged regular protests since then.
Commenting yesterday on this week’s decision to uphold the ban, Rev Mervyn Gibson said today’s 9am parade would go ahead, followed by the regular 3pm protest at Twaddell Avenue.
“It was recognised that this was the last major effort to try to get the matter resolved before the Twelfth of July,” he said.
“We are still open to that, resolving the issue before the Twelfth, but we can’t see what else we could do to achieve that.”
The county grand chaplain for Belfast said there had been no breaches of Parades Commission determinations in recent months - and that talks have been taking place with nationalist residents’ representatives in an effort to find a way forward.
“We jumped through all the hoops - we have ticked every box,” he said.
“They said the flags were wrong, so we sorted that out. The bands tidied themselves up and we accept the music ban, or only hymn music, and all the things regarding spectators in upper Ardoyne, but once you do that then it becomes something else. Now it’s the [Twaddell protest] camp. They just change the goalposts every time,” he added.
A police commander said today’s police handling of the two protests would be “appropriate and proportionate”.