Twaddell camp protest goes on

The camp at Twaddell Avenue, in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast
The camp at Twaddell Avenue, in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast
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Orangemen continued their daily parades up to police lines from the Twaddell camp in north Belfast right through the Christmas break.

The lodges have maintained a ‘civil rights camp’ in the area since they were blocked from completing their return parade back up the Crumlin Road on July 12, 2013, in light of protests from the nearby nationalist Ardoyne area.

Yesterday Gerald Solinas, a member of the Ulster Political Research Group and a member of one of the lodges involved, said that protests had continued over Christmas.

“Protests take place from Monday to Friday at 7.30pm and on Saturday at noon. But we don’t parade on the Sabbath as it is sacred,” he said.

“Apart from that, we paraded every day over Christmas without a break. In fact we have not taken a break since we started this in July 2013.”

About 60 people took part in the parade on Christmas Day, he said.

“There were about four police Land Rovers and about eight police officers on the street.”

As normal, the parade was entirely peaceful, he noted.

“The majority of the police were at Ardoyne [about 80 metres away] as normal to prevent attacks on us.

“There were about six Land Rovers parked at various entrances and another two or three mobile.”

The police helicopter was also flying overhead to watch for ambushes or attacks being prepared, he said.

Officers have repeatedly been targeted with gunfire, blast bombs and mortar attacks from the Ardoyne while officers have been in the vicinity to police the Orange parade, he said.

He noted that the Secretary of State publicised in recent days that policing the parading season cost some £6.7m this year.

“But there is a disparity in these costs,” he said.

“There is no threat to the police from the parades. The threat is coming from dissident republicans.”

He said Ardoyne protestors have openly threatened to bring thousands of people onto the streets if the parade is allowed to go ahead.

“It would only take us seven minutes to pass by the Ardoyne. A survey by BBC Spotlight of the contentious 70 metres found about 25 per cent of residents did not want us to pass, about 25 per cent did not care and 50 per cent wanted it to go ahead.”

He has met the Secretary of State up to five times.

“All over the western world, governments are clamping down on terrorism. But here in north Belfast the government is backing down and our civil and religious rights are being sacrificed.”