Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective Statement – 12th July 2012
“GARC is a non party-political residents’ group that is there to serve and give a voice to all the people of Ardoyne, Mountainview and The Dales, in terms of opposing unwanted bigoted parades through our community by Loyal Orders. GARC is committed to peaceful, radical action in order to bring an end to triumphalist parades that are open manifestations of sectarianism and that result in massive disruption to the lives of people in this community, the militarization of our community and the criminalisation of our community.”
Today we witnessed yet again the Loyal Orders being granted permission by the Parades Commission to march through our area, despite the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the residents of this area stating their opposition to such open expressions of sectarian bigotry taking place within this community.
The media focus of the past few days has been on the apparent inconvenience caused by the Orange Order by having to be back through Ardoyne, Mountainview and The Dales by 4pm. We only wish the media and unionist politicians, including the First Minister, were as concerned about the inconveniences that the residents of our areas face as a result of unwanted Loyal Order parades. These include being subjected to sectarian taunts and behaviour, the flaunting of loyalist paramilitary emblems celebrating those who have killed our loved ones, heavy militarization of the area, restrictions on freedom of movement, restricted access to local amenities and the criminalisation of our area. The Orange Order have successfully convinced the media that they are the victims of the parading issue in Ardoyne this year, while the plight of the real victims, the residents have been ignored. The Orange Order have got what they wanted, both an outgoing and return parade to demonstrate their supposed supremacy over the Catholic, Nationalist and Republican people. These parades were fully supported, facilitated and protected rigourously with all the resources at the PSNI’s disposal.
In the aftermath of the Orange Order return parade a number of residents who had been at another peaceful protest were attacked by a massive crowd of loyalists who had gathered at the junction of Twaddell and Woodvale, which nearly resulted in hand to hand fighting as a result of the PSNI failure to protect them. The PSNI then formed a line made up of riot police at the top of Brompton Park in order to antagonise gathering young people, who then unfortunately engaged in violence. A senior officer from the PSNI then got in contact with the named GARC parade organiser, who was told, in the presence of other GARC members that they would pull out of Brompton for our parade to take place, if we helped clear that area of rioters. They ensured us that this would happen immediately and that the same would happen at Estoril Park were we were to enter the Ardoyne Road. A number of GARC representatives then went to the scene and with a megaphone appealed for the violence to cease, in order that our planned peaceful protest could proceed. Our march shortly after departed from Ardoyne Avenue with over 2000 people walking in dignified silence against sectarian parades.
On arrival at Estoril with 2000 people we were told that this was not the case and after negotiations with the officer in charge it became apparent that the PSNI were hoping for a stand off to develop to increase the likelihood of violence and to criminalise the whole march. We decided that we would then take the march down Duneden Park and away from the police lines voluntarily and onwards to our dispersal point. At the bottom of Duneden Park we were contacted by our Legal Representative who had been informed by the senior PSNI Officer in charge that the route was now clear and we would now be free to proceed according to the determination made by the Parades Commission. Again however when we arrived at the top of Estoril Park the police refused to remove their lines and let the parade swiftly proceed before those who had previously been engaged in violence could arrive from Brompton Park. By holding the march up anti social elements, including well known state agents and paid PSNI informers from the Upper Springfield area, had gathered at the side of the legitimate parade participants. The PSNI, after a further 15 minute period, then allowed us to access the road, after ensuring parade organisers that they would be full protected from loyalists who had gathered at the Twaddell/Woodvale junction.
On accessing the Ardoyne/Crumlin Road and viewing Twaddell/Woodvale junctions for ourselves it became apparent that the policing operation was totally inadequate to defend marchers from the hundreds, if not thousands, of loyalists who had gathered. Loyalists had been allowed to gather even on the spy-camera roundabout within touching distance of our parade. As the head of our parade entered Brompton Park, the middle was attacked with missiles as varied as sticks, bottles, fireworks, scaffolding poles and even a set of step ladders taken from a photographer. Young people who had followed from Estoril, including previously named PSNI infomers, but were not part of the parade then retaliated. GARC stewards and other parade participants, to their eternal credit, then managed to get our marchers, who behaved with dignity in the face of a premeditated attack orchestrated by visible UDA and UVF members into Brompton Park. We then appealed to those in Brompton to follow us to our arranged dispersal point in Ardoyne Avenue, half a mile away, which we did.
We would like to pay tribute to all those who took part in our parade and conducted themselves with dignity and respect for their rights and community. We today have made history as the first people from our community to march on the front of that road and demand an end to unwanted Loyal Order Parades, and the sectarian intimidation that results from them. We would again, as we did in the run up to today, appeal to people not to engage in violence that will only disrupt the lives of our own people living in Ardoyne. And we hope that people would acknowledge the very visible and legitimate way in which we have consistently done so. Tonight we put ourselves at the front line of a riot situation that was developing and positively used our influence to try and make it cease.
In addition it would be wrong if we did not criticise the role of the PSNI in today’s events. They attacked residents returning to their homes in the morning, failed to protect residents in the immediate aftermath of the Orange Order return parade from attack by loyalists, tried to ensure a stand off situation would develop into violence on two separate occasions at the top of Estoril Park and totally failed to protect GARC marchers from loyalist paramilitary attacks on the Crumlin Road. They had previously stated that they would ”robustly enforce” the Parades Commission’s 12th determinations, and ensure marchers and protestors would be fully protected. What today has demonstrated is that while they robustly defended the Orange Order marches, they were more than willing to see the people of Ardoyne and their supporters attacked. This again reinforces the majority view within the Ardoyne area that the PSNI is a sectarian militia there to protect those who support the state, while permitting attacks on those who stand up for their rights.
This year’s 12th of July in Ardoyne, Mountainview and The Dales has shown us that the continued demand of the Loyal Orders to march through our community leads to an increase in community disruption, as has been the case for generations. We in GARC are willing to work with anyone within the community to help bring a solution to the Parading issue in our locality. The only solution has to be an end to Loyal Order parades and they bear the responsibility for the consequences. To demonstrate our willingness to find a sensible, peaceful solution, while remaining true to the vast majority of our residents’ wishes that there are no Loyal Order parades through our area we are prepared to take the first step. GARC will in future refuse to apply for any parades on the Crumlin/Ardoyne Roads, if the Loyal Orders reciprocate and give an undertaking to do the same. This will, in effect, create a shared and neutral non-parading zone on that stretch of the road. This could be coupled with an obligation and determination by the Stormont Executive to allocate funds to fully upgrade the alternative route down Glenside and onto the Forthriver Road, giving Loyal Orders the opportunity to march were they are fully welcome and appreciated, while safeguarding nationalist residents’ rights. We hope this proposal is taken in the good faith intended.
In conclusion, we remain committed to giving a voice to all those within Ardoyne, Mountainview and The Dales who oppose unwanted sectarian parades by Loyal Orders and will continue to organise peaceful action to constructively demonstrate our opposition. We would again like to thank all those who attended our parade today and acted with the utmost dignity and in peace, they were a credit to their people. Thank you all.