Twaddell protest continues over holiday period

Christmas at Twaddell Camp in north Belfast
Christmas at Twaddell Camp in north Belfast

Bandsmen dressed as Santa Claus staged nightly parades at Twaddell Civil Rights Camp over Christmas, where it was business as usual for loyalist protestors.

The ongoing protest at the north Belfast interface started a short time after July 12, 2013, when Orangemen were prevented from returning home past Ardoyne shops by a Parades Commission determination.

Camp spokesman Gerald Solinas said: “We had a parade on Christmas Day as usual, but hours earlier around 1am a group of men attacked the camp and destroyed banners. So much for Christmas spirit!

“So that was a bad start. Thankfully there was no-one in the camp at the time.”

A PSNI spokesman said a 25-year-old man has been charged with criminal damage in relation to the incident.

He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on January 21, 2015.

Mr Solinas said protestors “came and went from Twaddell Camp all day [on Christmas Day] and then we had the parade at night”.

“It wasn’t like last year with people eating their dinner there,” he added. “It was more casual.

“But the shift pattern has started back again.”

Mr Solinas said news that the NIO was not prepared to set up a panel of inquiry into the ongoing parade dispute “makes little difference to us”.

The proposal had been announced in October by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in a bid to resolve the ongoing stand-off.

However, in a statement on December 23, after political talks at Stormont had concluded, an NIO spokesman said that while they remain “fully committed to seeking a resolution to the situation Twaddell/Ardoyne”, it has “become apparent that there is insufficient support for the proposed panel among some of those most closely involved in the dispute”.

Mr Solinas said the “working-class community felt disgusted by unionist parties who they feel do not represent them”.

However, last night DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said during the Stormont House talks that the “UUP and DUP upheld the commitment they gave not to negotiate on the wider parading issues until we get progress in regard to the Ligoniel lodges”.

“We have been in contact with the Secretary of State following her announcement that she would not be setting up the panel,” he said.

“She indicated she intends to take a new initiative with regard to Ligoniel in the New Year. The DUP, UUP and Orange Order will be meeting with the Secretary of State to find out exactly what she means by this.

“We want to see it resolved and will be pressing the Secretary of State to take the necessary steps to find a resolution.”