Unionist hardliners have been strongly criticised for seeking to ‘upscale’ protests and disturbances in its efforts to force a sectarian parade through the nationalist Ardoyne in north Belfast.
Their calls for an escalation were being linked to a spate of loyalist bomb alerts and hoaxes in Belfast this week.
William Mawhinney of the anti-Catholic Orange Order told last weekend’s loyalist rally on the Woodvale Road near Ardoyne, that opposition to the Parades Commission ruling on the July 12 return march along the Crumlin Road would be “up-scaled... right up to civil disobedience if that’s what it takes”.
He made the controversial comments was flanked by senior DUP figures, Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey.
Mr Mawhinney, the Orange Order’s Belfast County ‘Grand Secretary’, told a crowd of around 350 that fresh protest plans were “ongoing” and would be relayed as they emerged.
His comments came amid concerns about the increasing UVF paramilitary involvement, including dozens of sinister, masked figures taking part in Orange protest parades at the flashpoint interface.
North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said the remarks were “extremely dangerous and irresponsible”.
“This is still a very difficult and volatile situation and it’s ill-advised to be upping the ante in this manner,” the SDLP representative said.
“Whether you call it civil disobedience, a demonstration or whatever, to call people out onto the streets in and about an interface area is increasing the danger of clashes taking place.”
Mr Maginness said the presence of senior DUP members was “greatly irresponsible”.
“They know the dangers of such rhetoric and they disassociate themselves from it and show leadership.”
Also increasing tensions in north Belfast this week was news that a commemoration is set to go ahead in Ardoyne for Thomas Begley, an IRA Volunteer who died in an attempted 1993 attack on a group of UDA death squad leaders. Tragically, the bomb being bravely planted by Vol. Begley on the loyalist Shankill Road exploded prematurely, killing him along with nine civilians, all Protestants.
Unionists later insisted the attack was sectarian and even claimed Vol. Begley was a suicide bomber.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and other unionists have condemned the planned rally later this month, while making no criticism of a recent parade on the Shankill Road which commemorated sectarian killer Brian Robinson.
Dodds said of the republican event: “His actions are not to be celebrated but should be a source of shame. There is no place in northern Ireland for the glorification of killers such as Thomas Begley.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said Begley’s family had the right to remember him and wanted to do so “in a quiet and dignified way”.
“Nobody involved in this is trying to glorify what happened or trying in any way to commemorate the Shankill bombing,” he said.
“They are there on the basis that this young man died in that same bombing and they want to remember him.”