Lodges’ warning to Villiers and PSNI

Orange Order supporters have been protesting at Twaddell Avenue  for more than 700 days after the Ligoniel parade was barred from its return journey on July 12 2013
Orange Order supporters have been protesting at Twaddell Avenue for more than 700 days after the Ligoniel parade was barred from its return journey on July 12 2013

A warning was issued to Chief Constable George Hamilton and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers that Orangemen this marching season will not do “the police’s job for them”.

In a statement read to hundreds of protestors on the 700th day of the protest at the Twaddell Avenue interface on Friday, Ligoniel lodges’ spokesman, John Aughey, said that “last year all sections of unionism and loyalism came together to ensure a peaceful 12th of July”.

He said: “The community took great risks and showed fine leadership in the face of having our basic civil and religious freedom denied due to the threat of violence from republicans which the government, along with the Parades Commission, capitulated as they have a habit of doing.”

He further cautioned: “Secretary of State and Chief Constable let me assure you: We will not be asking for the community this year to be used and abused in the way in which they were last year.

“They should not and they do not expect this community to be taken for granted, not be expected to do the police’s job for them.

“After a year of false promises and broken pledges from the Secretary of State and others this community has had enough of the platitudes.

“It is an indictment of this system that law-abiding people are being punished and mistreated on the basis of violence, intimidation and quite frankly blatantly bogus grievances.”

Mr Aughey spoke from the stage in north Belfast alongside Belfast County Grand Master George Chittick, PUP spokesman Winston Irvine, Gerald Solinas, Issac Andrews from the UPRG, and others.

In July 2013, weeks after Orangemen were stopped from completing their July 12 parade past the Ardoyne shops, a ‘civil rights camp’ was established.

Since then Orangemen claim they have maintained a 24-hour presence at the Twaddell Avenue site.

On Friday night, Mr Aughey told those assembled: “The parade takes a mere six minutes to pass the area of contention.”

He added unionists were “expected to accept, through some bizarre logic,” that they can only “express your civil rights on your way to the July 12 celebrations but not on your return”.

Later a loyalist spokesman said he “interpreted the message was that we are all tired after a year of broken promises”.

“I think the situation is very precarious,” he said, adding the Parades Commission determination on the Tour of the North has left people “very angry”.

A Parades Commission spokeswoman responded that “the cycle of community tensions and public disorder characteristic of the decades-long parading disputes at the Crumlin Road interface in north Belfast may only be broken by engagement and local dialogue which addresses how the distinct needs of the local communities may be accommodated”.

The dispute continues to provoke division, she said, and the commission “continues to urge all parties to resolve these issues through mediation and compromise”.

No comment was available from the PSNI, Secretary of State or local MP, Nigel Dodds.