Republican protests against an Orange parade aimed at resolving the long-running Ardoyne/Twaddell dispute in north Belfast have been approved – with restrictions – by the Parades Commission.
A deal had been struck to allow the small parade to pass the Ardoyne shop fronts on its way to Ligoniel Orange Hall on Saturday morning, following negotiations involving the Ligoniel Orange lodges and residents’ group CARA (Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association),
The three lodges have been prevented from making the return leg of their Twelfth of July parade along a stretch of the Crumlin Road since 2013 due to concerns over public disorder.
Following the agreement announced last Friday, the Orange Order applied for a parade involving two bands and 250 participants. Once the parade has passed, the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue will also be dismantled, and there will be no application from the Orange Order for further evening parades until a wider agreement has been reached.
However, a second residents group in the area has criticised the deal between CARA and the Orange Order – lodging notification with the Parades Commission of their own protest parade to take place on Friday evening, as well as a static protest on Saturday morning.
The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) had applied to march from Estoril Park to the Crumlin Road at 7.30pm on Friday, and then to gather for the protest at 7.30am on Saturday.
In its determination on the GARC applications, the commission said Friday’s protest parade must proceed along Estoril Park no further than Balholm Drive – and stated there was a “high risk of public disorder” if it entered the Crumlin Road. Having expressed concern at GARC’s claim it “cannot be held accountable for the actions of others once dispersal has occurred,” the commission said GARC later clarified that it would encourage parade participants to leave the area and “not to engage in violence”.
The commission has also determined that Saturday’s protest should be limited to 60 people.
SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon has appealed for calm and called on everyone involved to “act lawfully”.
The North Belfast representative said: “Everyone, not least the residents of Ardoyne and Twaddell, want to see a lasting, peaceful resolution to this issue of contentious parades.
“Absolutely no one has the right to inflict further suffering on people who have more than suffered enough”.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said: “The proposed GARC parade is clearly aimed at raising tensions, damaging community relations and provoking confrontation.”
He said described the negotiated arrangement as “a huge step forward,” and added: “I am calling on all political parties to support this agreement.
“If GARC genuinely had the interests of this community at heart they would withdraw the parade immediately.”