Tensions in North Belfast
Tensions in North Belfast

A North Belfast residents’ group has called on the Parades Commission to review a decision on Friday’s ‘Tour of the North’ march.

Nationalists have expressed deep concern about the parade, which will pass nationalist homes and the flashpoint Ardoyne shops area, where serious violence flared on July 12 last year.

In a statement, the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group said it was “dismayed” at the decision to allow the march to go ahead.

“We believe this determination in fact allows for two parades to take place on the Crumlin Road,” it said.

It also expressed concern at a direction that the final decision on the route to be taken by loyalist ‘hangers-on’ would be left to the discretion of the PSNI police.

“Given the history of operational decisions by the PSNI in relation to parades in this area...the dialogue group can see no logic in a determination that leaves responsibility for the supports of this parade in the hands of the PSNI.”

The ruling, on the first major contentious parade of the marching season, will be the first test of the commission’s enhanced powers under new legislation.

Serious violence broke out after a march on July 12 last year when hundreds of loyalists, including well-known UDA paramilitary figures, were allowed to pass Ardoyne shop fronts.

Frustrated nationalists clashed heavily with British forces, with only the intervention of Sinn Féin stewards, including local representative Gerry Kelly, preventing loss of life.

Gerry Kelly last night said the parade should not pass through nationalist areas “given the political vacuum at the moment”.

“It is the same route on July 12 last year which caused so many difficulties and has led to tensions being raised. It is a tinderbox in Ardoyne at the moment,” he said.

Mr Kelly led a party delegation to meet with the British Security Minister this evening to discuss the upcoming marching season.

Speaking before the meeting Mr Kelly said the volume of violence and disruption associated with Loyal Order parades had been reduced significantly in recent years “due to work on the ground”.

But he said there were a small number of parades which had the potential to cause community conflict.

“The loyal orders must come to the realisation that the days of simply marching when and where they want are over,” he said.

“The loyal orders have a responsibility as parade organisers to ensure that their parades do not cause offence and do not choose routes which give rise to serious community tensions.”

He said nationalist communities had displayed a willingness over many years to enter into dialogue with the Orange Order.

“Unfortunately these advances have been spurned by the Orange Order and in some cases this intransigence has been rewarded with parades being forced through nationalist areas.”

Meanwhile, a prosecution is to follow an illegal Orange Order parade in east Belfast. Police broadcast that the parade was illegal over loudspeakers, but made no attempt to intervene.

In fact, every Orange Order march planned for east Belfast on July 12 will be illegal. The unlicensed parades, along with three others scheduled for the east of the city on July 1, will all pass by the nationalist Short Strand enclave.

Residents are meeting with the Dublin government in an effort to prevent the usual rioting erupting between rival factions.

However, they remain fearful that next month’s illegal marches could spark fresh violence.

A spokesman for the residents said: “We stressed to the Irish government the detrimental effect these parades will have on intercommunity relationships in east Belfast.

“It is important that the Irish government recognise our concerns before the marches take place.

“There is a genuine fear in our community that we could be targeted if a stand-off situation occurs.”

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2005 Irish Republican News