Flashpoint North Belfast parade concludes peacefully

Orangemen return to Shankill to disperse after parade is blocked on Woodvale Road


The contentious Orange Order parade to the flashpoint police lines in north Belfast concluded peacefully last night.

The return parade of North Belfast Ligoniel lodges was halted by a police on the Woodvale Road, about 400 metres from the Ardoyne shops.

Shortly before the Ligoniel lodges arrived at the flashpoint Orange Order marshals formed a line across the road.

This created a cordon sanitaire of about 20 metres between marshals and the metal police barrier with police slightly further back.

This was to try to prevent any troublemakers getting too near the police lines.

Senior loyalists including Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the UVF joined with the Orange marshals in ensuring order was maintained. There was also a UDA presence at the scene.

The lodges arrived at the top of Woodvale Road shortly after 7.05pm and shortly after 7.20pm they were returning to the west Belfast Orange hall on the loyalist Shankill where they were due to disperse.

Before returning to the Orange hall senior Orangemen Spencer Beattie told several hundred Orangemen and supporters that the more republicans “attack our heritage and traditions the stronger we will become”.

He said Orangemen were going to to continue their “ongoing protests” against the Parades Commission decision banning Orangemen from returning home past the Ardoyne shops.

Mr Hutchinson congratulated Orangemen and loyalists for the peaceful conclusion to the restricted parade and for the unionist/Orange/loyalist leadership shown today.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said today was a “watershed to restore the lawful rights of the Orange brethren”.

He added that the combined unionist “graduated response” against the Parades Commission Ardoyne parade decision would continue. “The situation on this road has been created by the denial of shared space by republican threats of violence,” he said.

Orange Order chaplain, the Rev Mervyn Gibson said, “today is not the end, today is the beginning of this campaign”.

Earlier the three Ligoniel lodges were given pride of place at the main Belfast parade, leading that march which featured thousands of Orangemen marching behind some 100 loyalist bands.

The new PSNI chief constable George Hamilton put a major security operation in place involving 3,500 officers - 1,100 of them operating in North Belfast - to deal with any disorder in north Belfast or at the 17 main parades or the numerous feeder parades.

Each of the 17 main parades were stopped for six minutes when senior Orange leaders read out statements protesting at the decision banning the Ligoniel lodges returning past the Ardoyne shops, and calling for the disbandment of the Parades Commission.

In addition,   the Orange Order staged up to 50 protests at return feeder parades. The order said these demonstrations were taking place at non-contentious areas in order to avoid potential for trouble.

Earlier the Twelfth of July started peacefully in north Belfast after the outward Orange Order parade passed by the flashpoint Ardoyne shops without incident.

The three Ligoniel lodges from north Belfast paraded by the shops on the Crumlin Road shortly before 8.30am.

Accompanied by loyalist bands members they were applauded by loyalists standing at the “Camp Twaddell” protest site close to shops.

The protest camp has been in operation since Orangemen were last year also banned by the Parades Commission from making their return parade past the shops on the evening of the Twelfth.

The two nationalist residents groups, The Concerned Ardoyne Residents Association (Cara), which supports Sinn Fein and the dissident-leaning Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition (Garc) as agreed did not stage protests as the parade went by the shops today.

Among the Orangemen parading were DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and DUP Minister Nelson McCausland.

Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson, who observed the parade from the “Camp Twaddell” site expressed satisfaction the morning parade was peaceful but claimed Garc members were in breach of the Parades Commission determination because they were present at the shops observing the Orange parade.

The Orange Order had promised that the contentious return parade in north Belfast would be strictly marshalled.

The grand secretary of the Orange Order Drew Nelson warned that any loyalist who threw a stone today would be “falling into a republican trap”.

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