Northern Ireland

Orange Order says it has peaceful solution to Ardoyne march ruling

Band passes Ardoyne shops
Image caption Lodges and bands passed the flashpoint Ardoyne shops area earlier

The Orange Order has said it has come up with a "peaceful solution" to allow a controversial Twelfth of July parade to take place in Belfast.

Members usually attend an afternoon service in south Belfast then walk back across the city to their Orange halls.

The Parades Commission has ruled they must pass a flashpoint Catholic area at Ardoyne by 16:00 BST - a deadline the Orangemen said was unfeasible.

The Protestant organisation has said it will reveal its solution later.

Lodges and bands passed the flashpoint Ardoyne shops area earlier on Thursday on their way to the field where Orangemen gather before returning to their own areas later.

There were no major incidents as the parade passed.

There had also been concerns about a parade in the village of Crumlin, County Antrim, where restrictions had been imposed.

However, a statement issued by the PSNI late on Wednesday said that the Orange Order and Crumlin Residents Association had held talks and come to various agreements to ensure a positive and peaceful Twelfth parade in the village.

'Difficult decisions'

The Twelfth of July is the busiest day of the marching season in Northern Ireland with thousands of Orangemen and women, accompanied by marching bands, taking part in hundreds of parades.

The Orange Order holds its main Belfast event, which commemorates King William III's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II, at Barnetts Demesne, five miles away from Ardoyne.

The order said it would be impossible to walk to the field on the outward parade and then make the homeward parade past Ardoyne by 16:00 BST.

In previous years, the parade has passed through the area on its return from the field at about 19:00 BST, and the Orange Order says the earlier deadline would curtail their festivities.

On Wednesday evening, Orangemen from the Belfast county lodges and local politicians met on the Shankill Road to discuss the Parades Commission decision.

Orange Order spokesman Reverend Mervyn Gibson said they had found a solution.

"All present have agreed a course of action that will guarantee a homeward parade for the Ligoniel lodges," he said.

"This is a peaceful solution to the appalling predicament the Parades Commission have placed us all in.

"Difficult decisions have been taken but decisions which will offer hope and encouragement to our communities, indeed to all the people of Northern Ireland."

He said more details would be given to Orange Order members at the main Twelfth celebration in Belfast at Barnetts Demesne on Thursday afternoon.

Image caption Loyalists have been protesting against the Parades Commission's determination on Ardoyne

Mr Gibson refused to say whether members would abide by the Parades Commission ruling.

Legal challenge

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson tweeted: "Good to see Orange Order giving responsible leadership to maintain peaceful outcome in spite of outrageous Parades Commission ruling."

Police have said they will "robustly uphold" the Parades Commission decision banning Orangemen from walking past shops in the nationalist area of north Belfast after the deadline passes.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said there would be no leeway.

"We will uphold the Parades Commission determination and its timings," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a legal bid by a north Belfast loyalist to secure legal aid to challenge the Parades Commission ruling was refused.

The unnamed individual had sought to have the decision overturned in the High Court.

It is understood the person, whose identity has not been revealed, was not a member of the Orange Order or any parades organisation.

Thousands of officers are on standby to police the parade in Ardoyne, that has preceded serious rioting in recent years.

Last year, 16 police officers were injured during sustained disturbances the area.

The overall policing bill for the marching season in 2011 was £5.7m. There were 160 arrests.

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