Water cannon and plastic bullets have been used in north Belfast after loyalists attempted to force an Orange Order parade down the Crumlin Road in north Belfast.
The July 12th parade was ordered to be rerouted this year for the first time. The ‘return’ march from an Orange rally passes through a number of nationalist areas and has always been bitterly opposed by local residents.
With tensions sky high, and amid doubts over the PSNI’s determination to oppose the loyalists, Sinn Fein spokesperson Gerry Kelly appealed for calm in Ardoyne from atop a PSNI Landrover.
The Greater Ardoyne Residents Committee said this evening they had blocked the predominately nationalist Crumlin Road to ensure there was no loyalist incursion.
Water cannon were deployed in both north and east Belfast, and for the first time in recent years, plastic bullets were used against loyalists.
A number of PSNI members were said to have been injured amid what they described as “serious disorder” on the Woodvale Road.
The trouble began almost immediately as Orangemen from three north Belfast Orange lodges had arrived at the junction of the Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade, where they were not allowed to pass due to a Parades Commission determination.
Speaking at the main Orange rally in Derry earlier today, the ‘Grand Master’ of the Orange Lodge of Ireland Edward Stevenson hit out at the ruling and gave an indication of impending trouble.
“The absurdity of preventing three Orange lodges in Ligoniel from partaking in a dignified parade on their return from the Twelfth celebrations, while rewarding those who engage in violence and go out of their way to be offended by our traditions, has surely sounded the death knell for this charade of a commission,” he said.
In east Belfast, a loyalist mob attacked the Short Strand and St Matthews church in east Belfast, while nationalist homes have also been attacked in Henry Street in the north city centre area. Tensions were also said to be high in the Springfield Road area.