LA PROTESTA DELL’ORANGE ORDER: “CI LIBEREREMO DELLA PARADES COMMISSION”
A peaceful protest has been held by the Orange Order over what they claim is “six minutes of intolerance” experienced by lodges in north Belfast who are not allowed to return past the Ardoyne shops.
Marches during all 17 Twelfth demonstrations halted for six minutes to oppose determinations by the Parades Commission – including those barring Ligoniel lodges from making their return journey.
In north Belfast, supporters cheered and sang and bands played music ahead of a statement being read on the Woodvale Road on Saturday evening – and again after it, before three lodges paraded to the West Belfast Orange Hall where they dispersed.
Afterwards, DUP MP Nigel Dodds, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson and Orange Order chaplain Mervyn Gibson spoke to the media in a show of unity and said that the protest was the start of the “graduated response” by unionists and loyalists.
They made it clear the peaceful campaign to complete the parade past Ardoyne will continue.
Reacting, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “I welcome the repeated pleas from the Orange Order and politicians from all sides for all parades and protests to be peaceful and lawful.”
We publicly pledge here today that we will continue the struggle to make Northern Ireland a better place by getting rid of the Parades Commission.
The statement which was read out by senior Orangemen at each of the parade locations across Northern Ireland accused the parades watchdog of “tainting or perhaps even undermining the democratic system”.
They pledged to “make Northern Ireland a better place by getting rid of the Parades Commission”.
Addressing the situation in Ardoyne, the Order claimed: “Republican violence has been rewarded and Loyal Order compliance with parades determinations penalised in a clear and continuing trend.”
And of Portadown, they added: “The Parades Commission tightened the screw on unionist cultural expression by banning a short parade to open a traditional arch which has been erected for many decades by the local community.”
Branding the Parades Commission “undemocratic”, Orangemen further stated that parades had been banned or restricted in a host of other areas.
In a message to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, the Orange Order added: “You are the person who has political responsibility for the Parades Commission.
“A fundamental flaw with that body is the very fact that it only regulates parades, which are almost exclusively a cultural expression of the unionist community.
“By creating the Parades Commission, the Government created a weapon which can be used again and again by the republican community to attack the unionist community.
“The Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 is bad law. It is unfair. It is discriminatory. It lacks balance.”
In a further ‘emergency resolution’, the Orange Order called on members to support a campaign which they said would be mounted over the coming weeks.
They again warned: “Violence will not advance our cause, but rather sully it.”
It comes one year after the protest camp was established at Twaddell Avenue, where a large crowd of supporters sang The Sash on Saturday morning as the Ligoneil band passed by.
The outward parade passed off peacefully, amid a heavy police presence and with no demonstrations from resident protest groups.
Around 3,500 officers were deployed across Northern Ireland on Saturday, with almost a third of them in north Belfast.
The Chief Constable, who oversaw his first Twelfth of July in his new role, acknowledged what he called the “responsible leadership” from a range of groups “such as the Orange Order”.
“I am pleased that today’s Twelfth parades have passed off largely successfully and that those taking part were able to enjoy their day,” Mr Hamilton said.
“We have had a quiet and peaceful parading season up to and including today and I hope that this continues for the rest of the summer.
“The police will do our piece to keep people safe and also to collect evidence where people step outside of the law,” he added.
In the Donegall Street area, Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín claimed that some bands breached a Parades Commission ban on music outside St Patrick’s Church during the morning.
The watchdog had ruled that only a single drumbeat should be played during that part of the parade.
“One band even started to play the infamous Famine Song as they passed the chapel,” Ms Ní Chuilín said.
But her party generally welcomed the peaceful outcome at Woodvale and called for talks to find a long-term solution.
A PSNI spokesman said: “An evidence-gathering operation was in place and any breaches of the Parades Commission determination will be investigated and reported accordingly.”
A report of an assault in the area near St Patrick’s church was also made to police. It is understood that a photographer made the complaint.
During the evening’s return parade, there was a minor stand-off between police and parade supporters at Donegall Street – but proceedings otherwise passed off peacefully across Belfast.