Contentious Orange Order march concludes peacefully

Leaders signal regular protests will continue as lodges seek to be allowed march through Ardoyne area

Members of the Orange Order take protest after police blocked an Orange Parade from marching past the Nationalist Ardoyne area in Belfast today. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Members of the Orange Order take protest after police blocked an Orange Parade from marching past the Nationalist Ardoyne area in Belfast today. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 20:05

A contentious Orange Order parade and protest passed off peacefully this afternoon in north Belfast amid heavy security.

Three Orange lodges comprising 500 Orangemen and three bands had been banned by the Parades Commission from parading onto the Crumlin Road and past the shops at nationalist Ardoyne this afternoon.

They were instructed to disperse at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade by 4.30 pm this afternoon. This had raised concerns about possible trouble following the serious violence that broke out when the lodges were blocked by police lines at the same location last Friday, Twelfth of July.

The parade however concluded without incident this afternoon although Orange leaders signalled that such protests would continue on a regular basis. The lodges continue to seek to be allowed march by the Ardoyne shops in order to effectively complete their Twelfth of July parade.

In contrast to the violent march last Friday week today’s parade to the police lines was well marshalled by some 70-80 Orange stewards. They handed out leaflets to Orangemen and supporters stating, “No matter what the provocation, violence is not the answer. Any violence will play into the hands of republicans.”

There was a strong force of police officers at the Woodvale Road flashpoint with more police lines nearby at Twaddell Avenue and at the Ardoyne shops. Frontline police officers however were not in full riot gear and the water cannon were kept out of sight.

The Orangemen and about 2,000 loyalist supporters converged at the police lines after 3 pm. Many carried posters with statements such as, “Parades Commission criminalises Protestants” and “Sinn Fein wish list: No flags, No Orange Marches, No Prods”.

Loyalist bands played at the junction and shortly before 4pm following the playing of “Abide With Me” and the British national anthem they dispersed peacefully.

Grand Orange lodge chaplain, the Rev Mervyn Gibson said Orange leaders would meet soon to decide their strategy on future such protests. Their objective was to complete the parade and to see the disbandment of the Parades Commission, he said.

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