Irish Republican News · March 14, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Loyalists return to the streets


A plan by the Orange Order for orchestrated street disturbances in north Belfast has raised fears of a renewal of conflict in the area.

On Wednesday night, loyalists blocked off part of a busy north Belfast road near Fortwilliam Park for a short period before allowing traffic past Other loyalist protests were held on Sandy Row in Belfast, Antrim, Bangor and Greyabbey.

The head of the Orange Order said the “civil actions” were being called to protest against the Parades Commission’s “ongoing and persistent demonisation” of Orangemen.

Last Saturday, ‘Grand Master’ Edward Stevenson called for a wave of protests across the Six Counties over contentious parades. He was speaking at an event to mark more than 600 days of loyalist protest in Twaddell in north Belfast against restrictions being placed on a sectarian parade near the nationalist Ardoyne area.

He hit out at what he called British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers’ “disgraceful U-turn not to proceed with a parading panel - called for by the unionist collective” and claimed it was “a sop to Sinn Fein”.

The Orange Order chief also accused the Parades Commission of “pandering to the threat of republican violence”.

Mr Stevenson added: “It is in this context and against such a backdrop that I would encourage Orange brethren and our supporters to demonstrate their displeasure at the current situation by holding peaceful and legal protests across Northern Ireland, at times and locations of their choosing, over the coming weeks.

“Such rallies, which will be entirely lawful, will be held in solidarity with our Orange brethren here at Ligoniel [north Belfast] and Drumcree [Portadown] and will be a public show of our dissatisfaction at the ongoing and persistent demonisation of our Loyal Institution.”

The Ardoyne area has been the scene of serious violence in the past. In 2013 there were three days of sustained violence following the banning of the controversial leg of the march by the Parades Commission.

However, last year’s July 12 march passed off peacefully after all the major unionist parties joined forces and said they would be involved in escalating ‘graduated’ political protest in support of the marchers.

With the failure to resolve the parading issue in the Stormont House Agreement, there are now fears that the 2015 marching season could descend into violence. So far, the protests have been similar to the loyalist ‘flag’ disturbances and riots, which started in December 2012 and lasted for three months across the Six Counties.

‘Flag’ protesters, still angered by a decision of Belfast city council to reduce the flying of the British Union Jack over civic buildings, are also said to be planning to renew their protest outside Belfast city hall on Tuesday.

A 24-hour “vigil” is to be held which will ominously coincide with St Patrick’s Day events organised by the city council. A loyalist band in Derry, the ‘No Surrender club’, said it also intends holding a sectarian parade through the heart of Derry city centre’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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