Belfast violence as police hold Orangemen back from Ardoyne
Several officers injured after frenzied crowd of loyalists pelt police with missiles
Loyalists clash with police on Woodvale Road in Belfast
Violence erupted in north Belfast yesterday evening when Orangemen were blocked by police from marching past the nationalist Ardoyne shops area.
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds who was at the Woodvale Road scene with DUP Minister Nelson McCausland seeking to restore calm was struck by a missile fired by a loyalist. He was taken to hospital for treatment.
He was reportedly knocked unconscious.
Several officers were injured at Ardoyne with four of them taken to hospital — three of them had been knocked unconscious. At 10pm last night police said four people were arrested at Woodvale Road and 20 plastic bullets had been fired. Loyalists continued to fire missiles at the police line at Ardoyne with the PSNI responding with water canon.
A hostile, frenzied crowd of loyalists attacked police with bricks, bottles, stones, sticks and cans when a line of PSNI Land Rovers on the Woodvale Road prevented Orangemen marching on to the Crumlin Road 300m away at nationalist Ardoyne. Police responded with water cannon while other officers unholstered their plastic bullet weapons.
As a loyalist band played music at the police line the angry crowd pelted police with missiles while others jumped on top of the Land Rovers screaming abuse and waving union and Red Hand of Ulster flags. Several officers were injured in the initial attack.
As the three Ligoniel Orange lodges marching behind banners arrived at the police line seeking to march on past the Ardoyne shops loyalists at the front warned photographers and camera crews to put down their cameras. Bricks and bottles were also hurled at photographers taking pictures from an adjacent wall forcing them to hastily climb down.
Some loyalists tore down concrete garden walls to create missiles to fire at police.
Ugly and tense
The situation remained ugly and tense last night as thousands of loyalists and Orangemen continued to protest on the Woodvale Road and in the general area. The violence followed the heightening of tension after Orange Order leaders insisted that its Twelfth of July celebrations would not be finished until the three Ligoniel lodges were permitted to complete their route home past the Ardoyne shops.
A Parades Commission insisted that parade finish on the Woodvale Road about 300m short of the nationalist Ardoyne area. The standoff continued last night. Police said they would ensure the Parades Commission ruling was upheld.
Elsewhere, and without serious incident, thousands of Orangemen parading behind hundreds of bands with thousands more supporters lining the routes participated in the Twelfth of July celebrations throughout Northern Ireland yesterday. The overwhelming majority of parades – 12 main parades and some 540 feeder parades – were peaceful.
The PSNI mounted a huge security operation. More than 4,000 officers policed the Twelfth parades while the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott drafted in 630 officers from Britain to assist his officers.
Earlier yesterday morning Orangemen were allowed march past the flashpoint Ardoyne shops on their way to the major Belfast parade. That feeder parade was held up by police for about an hour because it was accompanied by far more supporters than the Parades Commission had allowed. After mediation, supporters agreed to withdraw and the parade then took place.
A group of nationalists from the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective (GARC), viewed as sympathetic to the dissidents, held a small protest as the feeder parade went by. GARC and the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents’ Association (Cara), which is supported by Sinn Féin, called off much larger protests planned for yesterday evening.