Loyalists maintaining a round-the-clock protest near the Ardoyne interface in north Belfast have denied the ‘peace camp’ has led to the intimidation of nationalists.
A number of residents from the Twaddell Avenue area have erected tents close to a section of the Woodvale Road deemed out of bounds to three local Orange lodges from Ligoniel.
Ahead of this year’s annual Twelfth of July demonstration, the Parades Commission ruled that a morning feeder parade could proceed along the full length of the Crumlin Road, but the return parade could not walk the section of road between Woodvale and the Hesketh Road junction.
The previous year, nationalist youths attacked police lines with fireworks and petrol bombs immediately after the Twelfth evening parade along the same route.
Following the police blocking the passage of this year’s parade along the Crumlin Road, loyalists attacked riot control officers for five consecutive nights.
As well as erecting the makeshift peace camp, members of the Orange Order have repeatedly staged parades to police lines in protest at the Parades Commission determination.
Responding to complaints made by Joe Marley of an Ardoyne residents’ group – that nationalists are being verbally abused by protesters and afraid to pass the area – PUP spokesman Winston Irvine said the protest posed “no threat whatsoever”.
Mr Irvine told the BBC’s Nolan Show yesterday: “There has been no violence whatsoever attributed to the civil rights camp. As far as we are concerned, there is a real need to have a rethink about the amount of resources the police are allocating on a nightly basis. The protest and the civil rights camp doesn’t represent any threat whatsoever, and if the police feel that there is a threat then they need to tell us exactly where it is coming from.”
When asked if they were investigating any illegal activity around the peace camp, a PSNI spokesman made no mention of intimidation complaints but issued a warning to those taking part in the unnotified parades.
He said: “Under the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998, it is an offence to organise or take part in a public procession (parade) that has not been notified to the Parades Commission, or which does not comply with any conditions imposed by the Parades Commission. It is the role of the police service to police the Parades Commission determinations. We will do that in an appropriate, proportionate and human rights centred way.”