LOYALIST parade chiefs have reacted angrily to suggestions by UDA leader Jackie McDonald that they should abandon their return parade past the Ardoyne shops on the Twelfth.
Mr McDonald said the Twelfth was “the worst day of his year” and criticised the north Belfast parade.
He said: “There’s nothing wrong with the outward parade, but it’s the way the hangers-on, the blue-bag brigade, spend four to five hours drinking before going home when the trouble kicks off.
“Most of it is between different loyalist factions, the UDA, the UVF and the Red Hand Commando.
“All the old jealousies and rivalries surface. There’s not a Catholic for miles.”
And the UDA chief added: “It creates tensions and trouble and it does the Orange Order and the bands no favours at all.
“I think they should forget that part of the parade completely.
“It’s the same story at other interfaces where there has been trouble in the past.”
Yesterday, the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum, which represents the lodges and bands, rejected the suggestion from the loyalist leader.
Winston Irvine from the group labelled the suggestion as “irresponsible”.
“The first thing that I would say about Jackie McDonald’s comments are that they were his own personal views, but I do not think that, given three days before the march and with the situation on a knife-edge, that his comments have been helpful in any way whatsoever,” he said.
“Speaking on behalf of the forum in north and west Belfast, I totally disagree with him.
“I think he is completely wrong in what he said about making the parade one-way.
“For well over 100 years lodges have been traversing these routes and now Jackie McDonald thinks that they should give that up.
“This is an issue which goes right to the heart of the problem, not just here in Belfast but across Northern Ireland, where the unionist community is not being afforded the respect for their culture.
“I think what he has said has been totally irresponsible.”
Mr Irvine said he had received strong feedback, which opposed a one-way parade.
He said: “What I do not want to do is to overstate what Jackie McDonald has said, but it is clear that his views are not shared by those from the parading community who are already facing a decision from the Parades Commission which is nothing short of humiliation.”
BY MICHAEL McGLADE