Tensions high as Twelfth of July parades loom
Orange Order says unionist culture is being ‘trampled on’ and ‘demonised’
An “Eleventh Night” bonfire on Chobham Street in east Belfast, where firefighters had to spray down nearby houses with water to stop them catching fire. Photograph: Justin Kernoghan/ photopressbelfast.co.uk
There were several calls for a peaceful day of Orange Order parades as tens of thousands of Orangemen, thousands more band members and many thousands more spectators take part in today’s celebrations.
There are 18 Orange Order and one Independent Orange Order and scores more feeder parades taking place throughout Northern Ireland today with the main security concern, as in recent years, about the return feeder parade in north Belfast this evening.
The PSNI has 3,000 officers policing the parades with 1,500 allocated to Belfast where three of the most contentious parades take place – on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast close to the nationalist Short Strand; on Donegall Street at St Patrick’s Church near the city centre; and on the Woodvale Road close to the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast.
Senior police officers have warned that “tensions are high” among loyalists and have appealed to the Orange Order to ensure there is tight marshalling of the most difficult parades, particularly in north Belfast this evening, to try to ensure a relatively calm outcome .
There was serious violence here two years ago but last year was peaceful with Orangemen and loyalists holding an expectation that they might get past the Ardoyne shops this year. However, the Parades Commission – while allowing a feeder march to the main Belfast parade this morning – has again banned tonight’s return.
The Orange Order led the calls for a peaceful day.
“The strongest response to the narrow-mindedness of republican sectarianism; the stupidity of the Parades Commission and the inactivity of a failed Secretary of State is for the entire Orange family to have an enjoyable and truly memorable day,” the ruling Grand Orange Lodge said .
But it warned that a “sense of tangible resentment and frustration is building up in the unionist community, who see their culture and heritage constantly being trampled on, and the Orange Order continually demonised by sections of the press and civic society”.
“This has serious negative connotations for community relations, that will see another generation locked into division, intolerance and violence, hampering the future progress of Northern Ireland,” it added.
“We call on everyone to ensure that the Twelfth will be celebrated in a dignified way which respects life and safety and upholds peace and the diversity of traditions,” they said.
West Belfast Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has called on young people to stay away from interface areas: “Our community wants to enjoy the holiday weekend in a quiet and relaxing fashion and anything which may contribute to disturbing that peace is unwelcome.”