Orange Order says weekly protests over parade rerouting will continue
Organisation says ‘other avenues’ to solve impasse will also be explored
PSNI officers face an Orange Order banner during a protest on the Woodvale Road in Belfast on Saturday. Photograph by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.
The Orange Order has confirmed it will continue to hold weekly protest marches in Belfast in the short-term, but has stressed it will be exploring “other avenues” in a bid to solve the impasse over the rerouting of a Twelfth of July parade, which led to serious civil disorder.
Two applications have been made by Orangemen to march past the notorious flashpoint of Ardoyne shops in north Belfast on August 3rd and 10th.
In all likelihood these applications will be rejected by the Parades Commission, in which case the Orange Order confirmed it would stage protest marches, as it has done on the past two Saturdays.
The protests were sparked when the Orange Order’s application to return home via Ardyone shops on its Twelfth of July parade was rejected by the Parades Commission earlier this month. Five days of rioting across Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland erupted in the aftermath of the decision, during which 70 members of the PSNI were injured.
Call to end protests
Last week, both Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers called on Orangemen to reconsider their strategy of weekly protest parades in the interests of peace.
However, speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Orange spokesman Mervyn Gibson said the Orange Order was “only one stakeholder” and would be “waiting to see what the Secretary of State and the PSNI can contribute”.
He added: “We have restored calm after the rioting. Our protests have been 100 per cent peaceful. We are playing things by ear; other people have a part to play.
Saturday’s protest saw a crowd of a few thousand Orangemen follow one band from Shankill to Woodvale in north Belfast, where an hour-long, peaceful protest was held at police lines, just 300 metres short of Ardoyne shops.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has denied that the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, rejected an invitation by Orangemen to visit their headquarters last year.
At the height of last summer’s disputes over contentious marches in Belfast, the Orange Order publicly invited Dr Treanor and other Catholic clergy to visit an exhibition on the Ulster Covenant at Schomberg House in Belfast.