Clashes follow ‘Tour of the North’
Members of the Protestant Orange Order and loyalist bandsmen clashed with the PSNI after a controversial sectarian parade was rerouted from the republican Ardoyne area of north Belfast on Friday.
The PSNI said four of its members sustained minor injuries after trouble flared during the annual coat-trailing parade on Friday evening.
Bandsmen tried to force their way past the PSNI to walk along a nationalist stretch of the Crumlin Road in defiance of a Parades Commission ruling.
Nationalist groups maintained calm as a large crowd of republicans gathered at the flashpoint Ardoyne shops.
Local Orangeman Stephen McAllister said the ruling had led to frustration, claiming the marchers were just “going home”.
The loyalist confrontation may have been designed to increase pressure on the Parades Commission, which has ruled on the routes of contentious parades since 1998. The Orange Order is seeking to hold an even more controversial parade through the area on July 12th, the traditional height of the marching season, a parade that has lead to large-scale disturbances in the past.
Joe Marley of Crumlin/Ardoyne Residents Association said loyalist bandsmen had ratcheted up the tension by staying out on the streets.
“Community representatives from the loyalist community have refused to take calls from myself and other interface workers in the last few days and that doesn’t help the situation,” he added.
The Tour of the North is the first contentious sectarian parade of the marching season in the Six Counties.
The second -- taking place on Belfast’s Springfield Road on Saturday -- has again had restrictions imposed.
Meanwhile, residents of Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh are holding a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to organise a protest against a loyalist band parade in the overwhelmingly nationalist town.
Around 500 loyalists are set to march through the 98% majority nationalist town this weekend in what residents have said is an attempt to intimidate them.