Ardoyne residents groups call off protests against parade

The commission has said Orangemen can pass the Ardoyne shops in the morning, but not in the evening

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Two residents groups from the Ardoyne area of north Belfast have called off planned protests against an Orange parade on 12 July.

The Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Association and the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective announced the move at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said it was "a sign of good faith".

The Parades Commission has ruled that the Orange Order cannot hold a return parade past Ardoyne shops.

In recent years there has been serious rioting in the nationalist Ardoyne area after the parade.

The commission has said Orangemen can walk on the stretch of the Crumlin Road in the morning, but not in the evening.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has called the decision "ludicrous" and damaging to community relations.

In a statement the order said the decision "effectively signed the death warrant of this discredited and unaccountable quango".

The statement called for a peaceful day on 12 July.

"While violence may have closed this thoroughfare to a dignified parade; conversely, it will not open the road either," the Grand Lodge said.

The DUP said many would see the Parades Commission decision as "a reward for violence", but Sinn Féin called it "sensible".

The ruling is that on the return parade, lodges will be stopped at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade. They have been prohibited from walking between that point and the junction of the Crumlin Road and Hesketh Road.

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said the rationale behind the determination was "deeply flawed".

"This wrong-headed approach will do little to build respect and tolerance for cultural diversity. Many will interpret this as a reward for violence and intolerance in light of events in the area last year," he said.

"The initiative taken by the local lodges in their recent engagement with residents was the right thing to do and was warmly welcomed throughout the community. Regrettably that progress has not been recognised."

He called on everyone to work towards a peaceful outcome.

"Once again it is clear that any truly lasting solution to parades will involve the abolition of the Parades Commission," he said.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said it would be "hugely damaging" for Northern Ireland if there were violence on 12 July in north Belfast.

She said she recognised there was anger in the loyalist community because of the Parades Commission ruling, but said people should obey politicians' calls to remain peaceful.

SDLP assembly member for North Belfast, Alban Maginness, said the ruling was "significant" and had the "potential to defuse tensions and to reduce the possibility of violence".

The Ulster Unionists said the ruling rewarded "bad behaviour".

"The determination talks about the heavy toll on the PSNI at this location in the past and then proceeds to reward that violence against the police by banning the return parade that was always lawful, peaceful and respectful. The Orange Order has not been involved in violence yet it has its legal right to peaceful parading blocked," said councillor Mark Cosgrove.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said 630 officers from the rest of the UK would provide support to the PSNI

Former Presbyterian moderator Norman Hamilton, whose ministry is in north Belfast, said he did not know the overriding considerations that had led to the ruling.

However, he said there was "real anger" about the decision.

"Our local executive is working on this new template of building a united community and I don't see how this determination will help this policy. It will push us in the opposite direction.

"The prospect of a carrot in a year's time does not help develop a shared future over the next 12 months."

The Orange Order had talks with CARA (the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Association), a nationalist residents' group in north Belfast, last week ahead of the 12 July parade, but these ended without resolution.

The commission said that if there was "sustained and sincere dialogue", and the Orange Order respected this year's determination, it expected any future commission to "look favourably" upon the Order's application for a return parade at Ardoyne next year.

Another residents' group, the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (GARC), applied to the commission for an "equality and civil rights march" in north Belfast at 14:00 BST on 12 July. It ruled their march could not take place on the Crumlin Road and it had to finish by 15:00 BST. But following the commission's ruling, the group has called off that protest. It still plans to stage an early morning protest.

On Tuesday it was announced that police officers from the rest of the UK are being brought in to support officers in Northern Ireland for 12 July Orange Order parades.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Matt Baggott said 630 officers would provide the support.

The Scottish Police Federation said it had obvious concerns about the policing and political implications of its members being sent to oversee parades in Northern Ireland.

There has been serious violence at the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast in previous years after opposition to the 12 July Orange Order feeder parade in the area.

The Parades Commission is a quasi-judicial independent body that adjudicates on contentious marches in Northern Ireland.

It was set up in 1997, following years of sectarian tension and violence at the annual Drumcree parade in County Armagh.

The commissioners consider submissions from both parade organisers and those who object to marches. Parades Commission determinations are legally binding.

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