A republican commemoration in north Belfast was dispersed by organisers on Sunday after hundreds of loyalists threatened to riot on the parade route.
Around 500 people and two bands took part in the parade organised by Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band in honour of the famous United Irishman.
Parade organisers had wanted to walk through the Carrick Hill district while making their way to Clifton Street Cemetery, where McCracken is buried, but were banned from passing through the nationalist area by the Parades Commission.
There was serious rioting between loyalists and police during a similar parade last year.
As the parade set off from the nationalist Ardoyne several hundred loyalists gathered to hold a ‘protest’. A short time later parade organisers dramatically halted their parade at North Queen Street and both the bands and supporters dispersed.
Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band spokesman Sammy Cusick said his band had consciously “de-escalated the situation”.
“We stopped here because nationalists are not second-class citizens in this shared city,” he said.
“If you saw the geography of the entrance they wanted to march us through, you couldn’t march 10 through there never mind a couple of hundred.
“We did this to keep the moral high ground, all they want to do is have riot around there.”
Mr Cusick said his band will apply to hold a similar parade next year. “We will talk to anybody including the protest groups,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about accommodation and people getting together and talking.”
Earlier in the day an anti-Catholic parade by the Royal Black Preceptory passed through the same nationalist area without incident.
ARDOYNE FLEADH TARGETED
Last weekend, dozens of loyalists blocked a road and pelted a bus full of Ardoyne festival-goers with missiles
A tour of the former Crumlin Road prison in north Belfast, organised by the Ardoyne Fleadh, was due to take place on August 22nd followed by a performance of traditional Irish music.
However, a loyalist mob gathered on the Crumlin Road and on nearby Clifton Park Avenue to stop the double decker bus full of people from entering the jail.
The protesters pelted the bus with eggs, bottles and other missiles, and hurled abuse at a separate group of tourists waiting outside the jail.
Last year, loyalists also attempted to sabotage an Irish music night at the Fleadh by breaking into an electricity substation and cutting off power to thousands of homes in the area.
PSNI ALLOW INTIMIDATION
Meanwhile, a loyalist ‘protest camp’ at the interface between Ardoyne and the loyalist Woodvale area remains in place. The camp was set up after the Orange Order was banned from walking past nationalist homes in Ardoyne on July 12.
On Monday night, loyalists taking part in nightly disturbances at the camp suddenly attempted to surge through the interface.
Orangemen in collarettes and a number of loyalists bandsmen were among a group of several hundred protesters who paraded along the Woodvale Road and towards the Ardoyne roundabout.
No permission to parade was applied for, making the march illegal. Around 50 people breached PSNI lines before being pushed back.
North Belfast Sinn Féin representative Caral Ni Chuilin said the incident was “highly provocative.”
“The fact that the parade was able to march so close to the Ardoyne interface raises questions about the PSNI response and resources in the area.
“Unionists need to show leadership and use their influence to defuse this tension which is clearly centred in an alliance between the UVF and Orange Order in Belfast.”
The PSNI have refused to remove the loyalist camp because of a fear of “serious public order repercussions”, something which Sinn Féin criticised.
Ms Ni Chuilin said the loyalists were attempting to create trouble, and the PSNI was allowing it.
“Clearly their aim is to create conflict and while I appeal for Ardoyne residents not to rise to this nightly charade, I call on the PSNI to ensure the situation is not allowed to develop any further,” she said.
“Nationalist residents want to get on with their lives peacefully and free from sectarian intimidation. It is incumbent on the PSNI to make sure that the protesters’ aim of heightening tension and creating confrontation is not allowed to succeed.”