Irish Republican News · July 12, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

A legally binding determination by the Parades Commission was ignored this evening and and over a thousand loyalists were allowed to march provocatively through the Ardoyne in north Belfast, infuriating the area’s nationalist residents.

Violent clashes resulted between Ardoyne residents and the North’s security forces who had barricaded the community behind giant metal shutters for most of the day.

Angry and frustrated nationalists ignored efforts by Sinn Féin stewards to intervene and engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with riot PSNI police and British troops.

And following warnings by the SDLP earlier today, it appears that the party’s support for the PSNI could now be withdrawn.

The loyalist supporters of the Protestant Orange Order had been barred by the Parades Commission from marching the return route from their main rally in Belfast back through Ardoyne. The march was part of wider Protestant celebrations of a 17th century battle victory over Catholics.

It followed a week of threats and intimidation, the unionist blockade of Ligoniel and last week’s capitulation by the Parades Commission to similar threats over the parade in nearby Springfield Road.

However, as the day progressed, it was clear the Orange Order were being allowed to ignore the restrictions placed on them by the Parades Commission.

A mob of loyalists, who jeered and cheered as they strolled past the interface, threw missiles and attacked the residents later from side streets.

At one point, a number of British Army Land Rovers were caught in the middle of a large crowd, with only thick armour and reinforced glass protecting members of the Crown forces inside.

Later, a crowd of nationalists seized control of British Army batons and shields and attacked a small pocket of soldiers who were hemmed in around their Land Rover.

But in extraordinary scenes, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly acted frequently to protect members of the Crown forces.

However, even this intervention, and the efforts of the priests from the local Holy Cross Monastery, failed to stop the clashes.

Missiles were thrown, and a number of vehicles were attacked. Riot police fought back, kicking and baton-charging residents. Clashes were continuing tonight as the PSNI called in reinforcements and water-cannon.

Kelly called for calm as fighting continued.

He said: “The Parades Commission is now defunct because when it makes a decision the PSNI does whatever it wants to do anyway. They are cock-a-hoop because they are still in charge.”

The North Belfast man said attacks on nationalists by the PSNI had made it difficult to prevent any retaliation. “People are not just physically hurt, they are mentally hurt. This is another slap in the teeth for nationalists.”

Rumours that police would attempt to push through the supporters of the Orange Order were rife this afternoon.

Leading SDLP member Martin Morgan said that any failure by the PSNI to uphold the Parades Commission decision regarding the parade could see the party review its support for policing structures in the North.

Mr Morgan said his party expected a certain standard of policing in return for its participation in policing boards.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP also expressed his concern, which he said was “the worst case scenario”.

However, the PSNI entirely capitulated to unionist threats by ignoring the determination of the Parades Commission and forced the march through.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News