A residents’ group has called protestors from near and far to defy Parades Commission restrictions on a protest against an Orange parade past the nationalist Ardoyne area of Belfast on Monday.
West Belfast loyalists believe the move is ominous and potentially the same threat of violence which saw the return leg of the parade banned from returning past the flashpoint area in 2013.
The Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition (GARC) said that the Parades Commission had issued a determination “that states only 60 people can attend the GARC protest on Monday morning”.
The statement added: “This is a disgraceful decision, and an attempt to restrict the right of residents to be present as this unwanted sectarian parade passes through our community.
“GARC wish to remind the public that it has been proven in court (when GARC activists were acquitted of the charge of ‘illegally protesting’) that as many people as possible can stand and monitor parades for breaches of determinations.
“Therefore we repeat our call for residents and supporters from other areas to assemble at Estoril Park/Ardoyne Road at 8am on Monday morning.”
West Belfast UPRG spokesman Isaac Andrews said he was concerned that the PSNI would “facilitate” rather than enforce the Parades Commission restriction on protestor numbers, which he claimed happened recently at the Tour of the North parade.
“GARC used this very same technique of mass protest to block the return parade in 2013,” he said.
“Now they wish to use the same technique to block the outward journey. We do not have any confidence that the limit on protestors will be enforced.”
Grand Lodge chaplain Mervyn Gibson expects the parade to be peaceful but said the situation is not identical to last year.
“Last year the Secretary of State had promised us a panel review and there was lots of unionist unity. It is quite clear that politics has not worked for the Ligoniel lodges – yet politics is the only way forward.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “These threats to escalate morning protests are exactly what unionist representatives warned the Parades Commission would be the result of their bans on the Ligoniel lodges and bands returning home.”
“GARC’s contempt for the police and courts is no surprise either.
“In the past the police have shown no reluctance in denying observer status to Unionist representatives, we shall be watching closely to see if they operate the same policy against GARC on Monday morning.”
Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw has given an assurance that an “appropriate and proportionate” policing operation will be in place on Monday.
“An evidence gathering operation will be in place and any breaches of a Parades Commission determination will be investigated and reported accordingly,” he added.
A Parades Commission spokesman said conditions on the parade are the same as last year. The commission concluded that it was necessary to apply conditions on the parade-related protests “due to the potential for an adverse effect on already fragile community relations and public disorder”.