Violence erupts in Belfast after Orangemen blocked from Ardoyne

Water canon deployed after police attacked and injured by bottles and bricks this evening

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 21:00

Violence has erupted in north Belfast this evening after Orangemen were blocked by police from marching past the nationalist Ardoyne shops area.

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 onto the Crumlin Road 300 metres away at nationalist Ardoyne. Police responded with water canon 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. They were carried away by their colleagues to receive first aid.

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.

The situation remains ugly and tense as thousands of loyalists and Orangemen continue 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 determination earlier this week insisted that parade home finish on the Woodvale Road about 300 metres short of the nationalist Ardoyne area.

Police said they would ensure the Parades Commission ruling was upheld. The situation was further exacerbated after the Order earlier said that widespread protests would be held in support of the north Belfast Orangemen.

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 today.

The overwhelming majority of parades - 12 main parades and some 540 feeder parades - we’re 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 this 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 this evening.

There were also some angry exchanges between loyalists and nationalists at St Patrick’s Church in Belfast city centre this morning. One band played the Sash in contravention of the Parades Commission’s ruling that only hymns be played at the church.

Police said last night’s Eleventh Night bonfires held throughout Northern Ireland were “broadly peaceful” with isolated minor disturbances in Belfast.

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