Northern Ireland

Twaddell Avenue: Loyalists mark 1,000 nights of protest over 12th July parade

The parade was held in north Belfast on Thursday evening
Image caption The parade was held in north Belfast on Thursday evening

Hundreds of people have turned out for a parade to mark 1,000 nights of a loyalist protest at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast.

The protest began in July 2013 after a Parades Commission determination not to allow a return leg of an Orange parade to pass a section of the Crumlin road.

Campaigners vowed to keep protesting until the original parade is allowed to return past the Ardoyne shops.

Policing the nightly demonstrations has so far cost more than £18m.

Addressing Thursday night's parade, County Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of Belfast, George Chittick, thanked those who have taken part in the campaign.

"We have always said from the start - we don't need thousands or even hundreds each evening, the protest is not a numbers game" Mr Chittick said.

"But we do need and have the support of tens of thousands of people from all shades of unionism and loyalism who are committed to see the Ligoniel lodges complete their 12th July parade."

However, Fr Gary Donegan, from the nearby Holy Cross parish in Ardoyne, said it was time for both loyalist protesters and nationalist residents to "draw a line in the sand" and try to reach a solution to the dispute through talks.

"Anybody has a right to protest," Fr Donegan told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"I suppose, the question that people are now asking is... where does it actually go from here?"

The priest has been involved in cross-community work to prevent young nationalists and loyalists from engaging in sectarian conflict at the north Belfast interface.

Fr Donegan said the protest was now "being ignored" by nationalists but was still causing nightly disruption to traffic and some residents in the immediate vicinity of the protest camp.

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