Tensions rising over Twelfth of July after Orange Order parade banned from returning by Ardoyne

Northern Assembly recalled next week to discuss Parades Commission determination

Orangewomen walk past the Ardoyne shops in Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Orangewomen walk past the Ardoyne shops in Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire


Concern is mounting about how the contentious Twelfth of July parades will unfold after the Parades Commission banned Orangemen from returning past the flashpoint Ardoyne shops in Belfast on Friday evening.

The decision to bar the return Orange parade by the shops, the scene of serious and mainly republican rioting in recent years, has infuriated unionists and loyalists, while nationalists have welcomed the decision.

Orangemen will be permitted to march to the main Belfast parade past the Ardoyne shops on Friday morning.

The PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has drafted in an additional 630 police officers from Britain to assist local police in attempting to maintain order over the Twelfth.

Mr Baggott said this year was a “unique Twelfth of July” with 43 of the 550 parades taking place throughout the North viewed as “sensitive”.

Shots were fired by dissident republicans during republican protests against the returning Orange Order parade in recent years, while the area has also seen rioting.

The concern was exacerbated by the discovery on Tuesday night of a suspected dissident bomb at Alliance Avenue, close to the Ardoyne shops. It was found after reports of shots being fired in the area. PSNI chief inspector Andrew Freeburn said the bomb was a “blatant attempt to kill or seriously injure police officers”.

The ruling grand lodge of the Orange Order described the commission’s ruling as “ludicrous”. It had “effectively signed the death warrant of this discredited and unaccountable quango”.

The statement referred to recent discussions between local Orange lodges and nationalist community representatives.

It added: “Despite such unprecedented initiatives the Parades Commission has opted to reward violence and notably the threat posed by dissident republicans. Who can forget the masked gunman, armed with an AK47 rifle, on the streets of Ardoyne last year?”

The chairman of the commission, Peter Osborne, said “the late offer of talks last week by the Orange Order was a welcome but belated gesture”. While the talks ended without agreement, it was “also a matter of much hope that all parties to those talks have agreed to re-engage after the Twelfth”.

The Northern Assembly, meanwhile, at the request of the DUP, will meet on Tuesday to discuss the commission’s Ardoyne determination. It was recalled once already this week to discuss allegations of DUP ministerial interference in the running of the housing executive.

The DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds was expelled from the House of Commons today after he accused Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers of deliberate deception in relation to the commission.

Ms Villiers in a statement said she fully recognised the anger in parts of Mr Dodds’s constituency about the decision and hoped everyone would listen a call from the leaders of the five main parties for a peaceful parading season.

‘Deeply flawed’
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said the commission’s ruling was “deeply flawed”, with many interpreting it “as a reward for violence and intolerance in light of events in the area last year”.

“Despite the illogical nature of the determination we appeal to all concerned to use every possible influence over the next few days to ensure a peaceful and dignified Twelfth holiday period and to uphold the rule of law in Northern Ireland. ”