Orangemen barred from parading in Ardoyne on Twelfth
DUP and UUP withdraw in protest from ‘fruitless’ Stormont talks
A loyalist protester gestures to the police in north Belfast last July on the third night of unrest after an Orange Parade was blocked from marching past the Nationalist Ardoyne area. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
The Parades Commission has banned Orangemen from making their return parade past the Ardoyne shops on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on the evening of the Twelfth of July.
Seven days of serious loyalist rioting broke out last year in north Belfast after the Parades Commission made the same decision. Scores of PSNI officers were injured last year trying to police the determination.
It also led to the creation of the Camp Twaddell protest site in north Belfast where Orangemen and loyalists have been based since last year’s decision.
The DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party today withdrew in protest from the Stormont talks on parades, flags and the past, saying they were now “fruitless”.
The commission yesterday issued a ruling allowing Orangemen parade past the shops on the outward feeder march to the main to the main Belfast. But today they issued a second ruling determining that the return evening parade must not process past the Ardoyne shops.
“On the notified return route, the parade shall not process that part of the notified route between the junction of Woodvale Parade and Woodvale Road and the junction of Hesketh Road and Crumlin Road,” the commission. “The parade shall disperse no later than 7.30pm.”
The parade on the Twelfth evening is now likely to be halted by police lines close to the top of the Woodvale Road, about 400 metres from the Ardoyne shops.
Unionists united in condemning the decision. A statement was issued today by the “combined unionist leaders” comprising DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson Peter Robinson, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, Billy Hutchinson, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party - which is linked to the UVF - and Ian McLaughlin of Ulster Political Research Group, which is linked to the UDA.
They said that the decision created a “serious situation for Northern Ireland” and that it demonstrated that violence pays. They called for a “peaceful and political response” to the “unjust determination”.
“We know, having seen republican threats of violence being rewarded, the conclusion is swiftly drawn that violence pays,” the leaders said. “We have, for some time, been aware that such an absurd parades determination would bring with it a very real risk of widespread violence and disorder.
“The unionist parties have pledged to work collectively on this issue. We do so to avert violence and destruction on our streets with the attendant harm that this would cause to Northern Ireland’s community relations and reputation,” they added.
“The desired direction of travel for Northern Ireland has been to leave behind the use and threat of violence. This decision and its surrender to publicly issued republican threats is unacceptable and flies in the face of the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Northern Ireland who want to move forward on a basis where cultural expressions are undertaken with respect and met with tolerance,” said the statement from the unionist and loyalist leaders.
“The message the Parades commission has sent out is simple. It has shown that the commission members place no value on a relationship with unionism and have treated our advice with contempt. It has turned its face away from the evidence including from the PSNI. It is regrettable, but so be it. As a consequence we, as leaders of the unionist community, see no value in continuing contact with a Parades Commission that does not listen and is immune to reason.”
They said there would be a “graduated unionist response” to the decision involving the Orange Order, unionism and loyalism and that they had devised a plan of action that would be peaceful.
“We stress that the only way to secure widespread support throughout the community is conditioned on a repudiation of violence. We cannot lead a campaign against republicans who use the threat of violence as a means of influencing decision making if there are those within our community who stoop to these same foul methods,” added the leaders.
They added that they would now withdraw from the “now fruitless” talks on flags, parades and the past at Stormont. Three days of talks were set aside for this week with three days also set aside next week.
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell accused unionists of issuing “foolish and silly” threats. When asked did the unionist response raise concerns for the Northern Executive powersharing administration, he replied: “This is a time for cool heads…We are very confident that with the support of the British and Irish governments and the Americans that basically the institutions will remain. What ever may happen the institutions will be there because we need the institutions to hold our community together.”
Alliance leader David Ford said that the withdrawal from the talks by the DUP and the UUP was “stupid” and “totally irresponsible and disgraceful”.