Orange Order parade goes ahead in Belfast

Police in riot gear escort protestant Orangemen through the Catholic Ardoyne district of Belfast. Picture: Getty
Police in riot gear escort protestant Orangemen through the Catholic Ardoyne district of Belfast. Picture: Getty
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A controversial Orange Order parade on a disputed stretch of road separating loyalists and nationalists in north Belfast has passed off without major incident.

The march was delayed for about an hour because of a stand-off between Orangemen and police who used armoured Land Rovers and riot squad officers to block the road.

A determination by the Parades Commission - the adjudicating body set up after the Good Friday Agreement peace deal to tackle contentious marches - had limited the number of loyalist supporters to 100. However, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) stopped the procession minutes after it began because they said too many supporters had turned up.

After tense negotiations with senior police officers and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds the march was allowed to go ahead.

Republican protesters from the hardline Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) stood holding placards as Orangemen walked past Ardoyne shops about 9.15am. Some verbal exchanges and hand gestures were exchanged between bandsmen and protesters but there was no violence.

For the first time, Orangemen have been banned from walking back along the same stretch of road on the return leg of the feeder parade later tonight. The area has been the scene of serious rioting following evening parades in previous years.

The Orange Order is planning to mount a series of protests to show its opposition to the decision which they claim has created a crisis.

The PSNI has mounted a major security operation across Northern Ireland for the traditional Twelfth of July commemorations.

Tens of thousands of Orange Order members and bandsmen are due to go on parade in towns and villages across the region with the largest numbers expected in Belfast.

Among the 550 parades will be a major procession of around 5,000 participants in Londonderry which is part of the UK City of Culture events.

A total of 43 of the marches have been deemed potentially troublesome.

Among police officers deployed throughout Northern Ireland today will be 630 mutual aid officers from 22 constabularies elsewhere in the UK.

The Grand Lodge of Ireland has insisted that demonstrations against the commission’s decision will be peaceful.

While reluctant to outline exact details of planned protests, the Orange Order move is likely to create a stand-off in north Belfast.

Sinn Fein has urged the Orange Order to rethink its position.

Last year officers were pelted with bricks, bottles and petrol bombs during clashes with rioters in Ardoyne. Shots were also fired by a republican gunman hours after the Orange march had past the interface.

Dissident republicans have called off a protest march in Ardoyne this afternoon while another nationalist residents’ group, the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents’ Association, also cancelled its morning protest in a bid to ease tensions.


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