Northern Ireland

North Belfast: Orange Order parade passes off peacefully

Orange Order lodges and bandsmen marching past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast early on Saturday morning Image copyright Kevin Scott / Presseye
Image caption Orange Order lodges and bandsmen marching past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast early on Saturday morning

One of the most contentious parading disputes in Northern Ireland in recent years has ended.

Three Ligoniel Orange Order lodges marched past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast early on Saturday morning.

Loyalists have now dismantled their protest camp at Twaddell Avenue. It was set up in July 2013 after the Parades Commission ruled that Orangemen could not walk along the route.

600 police officers were involved in Saturday's security operation.

Agreement

The Orange Order was allowed to march along the route after an agreement between Orangemen and nationalist residents' association, the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA).

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, said Saturday's parade sent a "strong signal that dialogue can work".

"It provides a platform of co-operation on which all involved will be able to build," he added.

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Media captionHigh-profile priest Fr Gary Donegan responds after being confronted by protesters in Ardoyne

Several dozen protesters from the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), who reject the deal, gathered at the Ardoyne shops as the parade got underway.

At one point, Belfast priest, Fr Gary Donegan, who backed the deal that led to the parade taking place, was confronted by a small crowd of angry protesters.

'New beginning'

They accused him of taking sides with Sinn Féin and the Orange Order against a majority of residents.

In response, Fr Donegan said: "The reality is, if I have to take a bit of stick for standing up for what I believe is the right decision, then I have always taken it in the neck.

"This was never going to be a situation where everybody was going to be happy or content, but if it means that the people who were actually parading got by and it's over, and we have a new beginning, then it's well and good."

"Nobody has cowered me before and nobody will do it again," added Fr Donegan.

Image copyright Kevin Scott / Presseye
Image caption A number of nationalist protesters gathered at the Ardoyne shops as the parade passed

The protesters also chanted "walk of shame", but dispersed peacefully after the march passed.

GARC also held protest against the parade on Friday evening which passed off without incident. More than 200 people took part.

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