Northern Ireland

Orange Order to meet Ardoyne residents

riot police
The area has been the scene of serious rioting over previous marches

The Orange Order has agreed to meet a nationalist residents' group in north Belfast ahead of a 12 July parade.

The Twaddell and Woodvale Residents Association asked three local lodges to engage directly with the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association.

They made the call following three recent peaceful parades in north Belfast.

The group said they hoped to build on the "positive environment".

Alfie McCrory, chairman of the Twaddell and Woodvale Residents Association, said they hoped good relations could be developed.

"In the last couple of weeks, we have seen three parades deemed to be contentious all pass off peacefully.

"We are trying to build on the environment created over the last number of weeks, to encourage respect in this part of north Belfast," he said.

"We are trying to be proactive rather than reactive.

"Every other year we wait until there is trouble and violence and we suffer for two days and then we try to get it fixed up, so we are trying to be proactive this year."

The statement released by the Twaddell and Woodvale residents only made reference to discussions with the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Association (CARA).

Orange response

It is one of two residents' groups that opposed parades at Ardoyne in the past. There was no mention of the second group, the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (GARC).

The Orange Order issued a statement on Friday morning giving their full backing to the local lodges who will be involved in the talks.

"The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast respects and supports their Ligoniel lodges in this decision," the statement said.

"The three lodges concerned have agreed along with the local community to enter into direct talks with the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association.

"This initiative builds on the success of the Comprehensive Template and is further evidence that the Orange family is committed to working towards peaceful resolutions."

Father Gary Donegan, from Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, said the move was to be welcomed.

"Face-to-face talks have to be welcomed," he said.

"There is a slight sense that it is late for the Twelfth, but the most positive thing is that people are calling for this and it is something we have wanted for a long time.

Initiative

"The whole community will welcome the fact that progress has been made and we are waiting to see how it will develop."

There has been serious violence at Ardoyne in previous years after opposition to the Twelfth feeder parade in the area.

Nationalists have always called for face-to-face talks in an attempt to come to a local agreement.

CARA has welcomed the initiative. The group is meeting later and is expected to issue a further statement then.

Cynical ploy

GARC labelled the developments as deceptive and described the Orange marches as "unwelcome sectarian parades".

"The latest statement from the Twaddell and Woodvale Residents Association must be viewed in short as nothing more than a cynical ploy to dictate a loyalist agenda to the residents of Greater Ardoyne," it said in a statement.

"If the Loyal Orders are serious about real and meaningful talks with residents they must first speak directly to those who represent the majority of residents in the Greater Ardoyne area."

The Orange Order initiative has been warmly welcomed by political parties and religious leaders throughout Northern Ireland, including the first and deputy first ministers.