North Belfast is “a tinder box” and people could be killed amid tensions over contentious July 12 marches, Gerry Adams has warned.

The anti-Catholic Orange Order has been given the green light to parade throught the republican Ardoyne area on July 12 against the wishes of local residents in the most controversial parade of the marching season thus far.

A major British military occupation is to descend on the area to force the parade through against local opposition.

The Ardoyne shops were the scene of serious violence last July 12th, with some republicans intervening to save the lives of British paratroopers.

There is even greater danger of trouble this year at Ardoyne shops because some former IRA prisoners who helped to police the scene last year have threatened not to assist this Twelfth, in protest at the jailing of local man Sean Kelly.

No reason has been given for the jailing of Mr Kelly, who had been released under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Kelly had worked to maintain calm during previous Orange parades in the area.

British Minister David Blunkett pulled out of a visit to a job centre in west Belfast on Friday in the face of a republican protest against the move.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams told a Belfast press conference earlier this week that an extremely volatile situation had been created as a result of rulings on marches through nationalist areas.

Mr Adams also said that following the return to prison of Sean Kelly, he would not be putting pressure on any former prisoners to act as parade marshals.

“Some former prisoners may well still step forward and I appreciate that, but I can understand why no-one released on license would want to risk incarceration,” he said.

Sinn Féin is now seeking a formal review of the Parade cCmmission’s decision to allow a parade through Ardoyne and is investigating the possibility of a legal challenge.

Mr Adams said the Orange Order was insisting on marching through nationalist areas where it was unwelcome.

“I understand, support and appreciate the right of the Orange Order to march. However, they need to engage in real and meaningful dialogue with local residents.”

Mr Adams said there was a need to think ahead in dealing with parades.

“People could be killed in the middle of all of this and indeed sectarian tensions are already inflamed,” he said.

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin representative for north Belfast met with Dublin’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern this week in an effort to resolve the problem. He was accompanied to the meeting by local residents who are members of the Ardoyne Dialogue Group.

Mr Kelly revealed that the Ardoyne residents had put forward a compromise position which would, in the short term, help ease tensions around the Twelfth parades.

The Minister was said to have agreed to raise nationalist concerns with the British government and the Parades Commission.

Meanwhile, Orange Order ‘Grand Master’ Robert Saulters has said the organisation’s policy is still to refuse to talk to groups “fronted by IRA/Sinn Féin” -- but it could change when the order’s leadership meets after the marching season in September.

He also denied he had set out last week to criticise Orange Order members who had been involved in local discussions with residents and others in west Belfast and in Derry.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness challenged the remarks, and said Protestant opinion now accepted that dialogue between marchers and residents was necessary.

“There is a tide of opinion within the Protestant community advising the Orange Order to get sense and to recognise that they should be talking to people,” he said.

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