‘Most successful Twelfths in recent years’ police say

Reports of a number of ‘distasteful and offensive’ hate-type incidents will be examined

Archive July 2016: Bonfires to mark the Twelfth of July parades across Northern Ireland have destroyed two homes and damaged a third in Belfast. Video: Brian John Spencer / Nate Gray

 

This year’s annual Twelfth of July celebrations in the North have been described as the most successful, peaceful and trouble-free in years by police and politicians.

Almost 600 loyal order parades took place on Tuesday to commemorate the 326th anniversary of King William III’s victory over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Assistant chief constable Stephen Martin, who was responsible for coordinating the extensive police operation in place, said, from a policing perspective, it was “as one of the most successful Twelfths in recent years”.

In contrast to previous years when rioting was linked to the contentious parade at Woodvale in north Belfast, it, and the associated protests by nationalist residents from Ardoyne passed off peacefully and without major incident at the interface area later.

Mr Martin spoke of his understanding that expression of cultural identity was important within society and praised the “responsible approach taken across our communities in bringing positive influence to bear in ensuring...parades and protests were mostly lawful and peaceful”.

One police officer was injured when he was knocked down by a vehicle in Coagh, Co Tyrone.

Police federation chairman Mark Lindsay wished the officer well and said the staff association was delighted not one of the 3,000 officers on duty was hurt in public order-related violence.

“Loyal orders, community groups, local politicians and statutory bodies worked alongside the police to achieve this result, and it is one I would like to see built upon,” Mr Lindsay said.

“We can achieve much more as a society if we work for common goals. Officers are delighted with the outcome.”

The PSNI has yet to reveal how many arrests were made over the last few days but it has been reported that Independent Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Padraig McShane was arrested following an altercation with officers triggered by heated verbal exchanges with loyalist band members in the Diamond area of Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

Three homes in the Shankill area of Belfast were gutted by fire after burning embers from a large bonfire were carried through the air and a cat was seriously injured in Antrim after it was thrown on a bonfire by thugs.

The Orange Order’s “It’s about the battle, not the bottle” campaign to limit on street drinking appears to have made some impact, but there is work still to do to make the festivities more family-friendly.

The police will be examining a series of reports of a number of “distasteful and offensive” hate-type incidents, including flags and election posters being placed on bonfires.

Alliance Party, Sinn Féin and SDLP politicians, among others, have described these sort of activities as totally unacceptable, nothing to do with culture and an issue that needs to be addressed before next July.

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan and DUP MLA Edwin Poots both faced criticism for appearing in photographs in front of bonfires topped with Irish tricolours.

On Wednesday, the Royal Black Preceptory’s annual “Sham fight” period costume reenactment in Scarva, Co Down, attracted tens of thousands of people.