Parade deadline will be enforced, says PSNI
THE PSNI has maintained it will implement the Parades Commission ruling that an Orange Order return feeder parade must pass by the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast by 4pm today.
Belfast Orange lodges met last night to discuss what the three lodges and single band due to return past the north Belfast flashpoint would do today.
Afterwards, a senior Orange representative, Rev Mervyn Gibson, said “a peaceful solution” had been agreed that would “guarantee a homeward parade” for the north Belfast lodges. He would not say what the solution was but said details would emerge today.
A huge security operation is planned by the PSNI for north Belfast.
In previous years the PSNI had to concentrate on containing republican rioting at Ardoyne before, during and after the return feeder parade passed by the shops. But today, additionally, there has been concern that if the return parade does not proceed past the shops there could be loyalist violence.
The North and West Belfast Parades Forum, representing local Orange and loyalist interests, has described the commission’s 4pm deadline for the three local lodges as “foolish” and “impossible”.
This, it argued, is because the main Belfast Twelfth return parade will only be beginning about 4pm and that to participate fully the lodges could not arrive at Ardoyne shops by the commission’s deadline.
There is further apprehension that a parade in the area by the Greater Ardoyne Resident Collective, viewed as sympathetic to dissident republicans, between 5.30pm and 6.30pm would also serve to inflame community tensions.
The disputed parade area is only 300m in length, but it is surrounded by republican and loyalist areas that create the potential for community conflict.
There had been speculation that such are the difficulties arising from the 4pm return deadline that police may allow considerable flexibility to allow the lodges return later, but in advance of the Greater Ardoyne Resident Collective parade at 5.30pm.
But PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said police would enforce the Parades Commission determination and its 4pm return ruling.
In the context of worries that this Twelfth may be more difficult for police than recent ones, there were appeals for calm from First Minister Peter Robinson, Minister of Justice David Ford, Northern Secretary Owen Paterson and the Police Federation.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams called on the lodges not to seek to return by the Ardoyne shops this evening.