Theresa Villiers warns parade violence will 'damage investment'

Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers has said violent protests must stop

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The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has warned further violence linked to parades will damage attempts to attract jobs and investment to the region.

Ms Villiers was speaking after the Orange Order was denied permission to walk along a stretch of the Crumlin Road in north Belfast at the centre of recent rioting.

Orangemen are expected to parade to police lines on Saturday.

Ms Villiers has appealed for calm.

"I understand that many people strongly disagree with recent Parades Commission determinations," she said.

"But however they feel, there can be no justification for lawless behaviour.

"People who break the law should be in no doubt that there will be arrests and prosecutions. And those who are convicted risk prison.

"It also has a serious impact on the reputation of Northern Ireland as we try and compete in the global race for investment and jobs.

New march

"The violent protests must stop.

"I once again call on all those with influence, including the Orange Order, community leaders and politicians, to help defuse tensions and ensure this weekend is peaceful."

leaflet The leaflet to be distributed to Orange Order supporters on Saturday

There were five nights of rioting following a decision to prevent three lodges walking along a stretch of the Crumlin Road in north Belfast that separates loyalist and nationalist communities on 12 July.

The Orange Order proposed a new march on Saturday on the same route.

The Parades Commission, the body that adjudicates on contentious parades in Northern Ireland, ruled on Thursday that the proposed parade would not be allowed.

It said it was disappointed that unionist politicians and the organisers of the parade did not make any representations to it.

It noted that it was not a traditional parade, but instead its purpose was to complete the route on which it had placed restrictions on 12 July.

On Friday evening, there was a loyalist demonstration at the Crumlin Road junction with Twaddell Avenue and Woodvale Road.

On Friday afternoon, the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast issued a leaflet on behalf of the three Ligoniel lodges, bands and local residents.

It is to be distributed to people at Saturday's parade. It states that the march is about showing "we have not and will not go away", and calls on supporters to stop at the Woodvale Road at the line of Orange marshalls.

"After a period the National Anthem will be played and we will all disperse," the leaflet says.

"No matter what the provocation, violence is not the answer. Any violence will play into the hands of republicans."

The leaflet adds that the organisers' campaign will unfold over coming months.

Meanwhile, in a separate development on Friday, senior police commanders met representatives from the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community in east Belfast.

Investigation

PUL representatives raised a number of concerns about the policing operation for the return Orange Order parade on the lower Newtownards Road on 12 July.

The police acknowledged that a significant number of missiles had been thrown at the parade from the Short Strand area. It said missiles were also thrown into the Short Strand area.

The police expressed concern for those who had been injured as a result of those missiles and outlined that a full investigation had started.

They undertook to review, with both communities, the policing operation for parades in that area "to ensure an appropriate level of reassurance for each community".

The police raised the issue of the "heightened tension" in which the parade took place, "the reasons for that tension, and the importance of active engagement with policing in advance of parades so that public safety issues can be fully addressed".

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