Three senior DUP figures have called for the removal of the Parades Commission after it ruled that a contentious Orange Order parade should not pass a north Belfast flashpoint on the evening of the 12th of July.
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds and MLAs Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey condemned ruling which determines that the return leg of a feeder parade cannot march past nationalist homes on a stretch of road in Ardoyne which has been the scene of serious rioting in previous years.
“This Parades Commission has delivered a ruling which is totally illogical and inconsistent with events over the past year. The Ligoniel Lodges and local Orange Districts have made great efforts to ensure that parades have passed off peacefully over the past year,” they said in a statement.
Describing the commission as “a relic of direct rule”, the trio claimed the body is “outdated and out of control”.
The DUP representatives claimed the Commission is responsible for causing “massive damage” to community relations “and to respect for law and order”. They said the ruling has placed the Ligoniel Orange Lodges “in an impossible position”.
“They are being denied the right to return home peacefully and with dignity along the main road they have traversed for decades, with priority instead given to dissident republicans who last year attacked the Protestant community at Twaddell Avenue. By this determination the Commission has chosen to reward intolerance,” they said.
The announcement, welcomed by nationalists, came just hours after Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Matt Baggott announced he was drafting in an additional 630 additional police officers to help police the annual Twelfth of July demonstrations.
It is the first time the feeder parade past Ardoyne shops has been blocked.
Residents group Cara spokesman Joe Marley claimed the decision gave locals respite. "We believe that this determination provides an opportunity for a welcome respite for the Ardoyne community from the serious tension it has endured in recent years," he said.
Sinn Féin parading spokesman and MLA for north Belfast Gerry Kelly said: "I welcome this decision by the Parades Commission and believe it is a sensible one. It has created the space for talking to continue. The dialogue that began just a few days ago to find a resolution to the situation should recommence."
“That decision to begin the talks was a brave one by both the residents group Cara and the Orange Order. Both have agreed to resume the talks and that is to be welcomed.
“The integrity of the weekend talks was shown when all the parties involved called for a peaceful 12th no matter what the determination was,” he added.
Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne said he hoped the restrictions would be respected. "We believe these determinations are fair and balanced. People want a peaceful parading season. There have been many welcome words about moderating language, upholding the law and showing mutual respect. "There is no inevitability that this will be a troubled parading season if those involved choose to behave responsibly and demonstrate mutual respect and act within the law."
Additional reporting: PA