New marching dispute in Ardoyne
New marching dispute in Ardoyne

Another loyalist group has applied to march through the republican Ardoyne in north Belfast next month despite the unprecendented violence which followed a similar parade through the area earlier this month.

Days of rioting resulted after the PSNI police attacked and removed a sit-down protest by local nationalist residents against the march by the Protestant Orange Order.

The Parades Commission, which adjudicates on parade routes, is considering a fresh parade application by the Ligoniel Walkers Club (Apprentice Boys) for the morning of August 14th.

Martin Og Meehan of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, said that if “the socially detached and discredited Parades Commission” permit the Apprentice Boys to parade past Ardoyne again, then there would be a “peaceful and dignified” protest by local residents in opposition.

He added: “GARC would also like to state that in spite of claims to the contrary, our collective reiterates our respect for the Protestant religion, heritage and culture.

“We support the right of all groups to parade in a peaceful manner. However, they must adhere to the rights of others and march only where they are welcome.”

Mr Meehan was among those arrested and charged by the PSNI after riot police violently forced an Orange Order feeder parade through the north Belfast interface on July 12. The residents were charged with “obstructive sitting”.

Heavy rioting then erupted in the Ardoyne and elsewhere in Belfast and continued for three nights.

Hundreds of nationalist youths clashed with the PSNI at the notorious flashpoint.

Ardoyne republican Paul Carson who speaks for GARC said the group had no regrets.

“Historically there has always been violence on that road coinciding with unwanted loyalist marches and to say that it was in the control of GARC is a nonsense,” he said.

“We will sit down on the road again and will continue to actively protest until these sectarian marches are rerouted away from our district.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has again called for a resolution of the marching issue.

He described the human, financial and political cost of the Orange Order’s obstinate insistence on marching through Catholic areas and their refusal to talk as “too high”.

With more contentious marches due later in the marching season, Mr Adams today called on the leaders of the various marching orders to meet with him and to “set aside past differences, demonstrate real courage and vision, and engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein and local host communities affected by marches.”

Mr Adams said: “It is time that the issue of contentious marches was finally resolved.

“I am convinced that with good will and common sense we can succeed. And I believe that a dialogue between Sinn Fein and the loyal orders can reduce tensions and create a climate in which greater understanding can be encouraged.”

The West Belfast MP said “dissident groups” had been “exploiting” the tensions and fears surrounding Orange marches.

“Sinn Fein’s opposition to these groups is unequivocal and a matter of public record.

“However, the fact remains that it is the loyal orders obstinate insistence on marching through Catholic areas and their refusal to talk that is at the heart of the perennial violence that marks the marching season.”

Mr Adams said the images of violence had undermined efforts by the marching orders to rebrand marching season as ‘Orangefest’.

“This is a self inflicted wound which has to stop. There are almost 4000 loyal order parades each year. The vast majority pass peacefully. Only a handful result in violence.

“Surely it is not beyond the wit and intelligence of all of us to find a resolution which can bring this to end. The proposals brought forward by Sinn Fein and the DUP are a means to do this which respects the rights of the marching orders and the rights of host communities.

“In early May I wrote to the leaders of the main loyal orders and asked to meet them to discuss all of these matters. They have not yet replied.

“I understand the difficulties that all of this presents for the Orange. But I believe that the vast majority of citizens want us to find a peaceful resolution to the marching issue.

“Today, I am appealing again to these leaders to meet with me.

“I am asking that they set aside past differences, demonstrate real courage and vision, and engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein and local host communities affected by marches.”

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