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2 July 2010

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‘Tour of North’ passes peacefully but tensions raised by Orangemen at Drumcree

BY Peadar Whelan

THIS YEAR’S ‘Tour of the North’ Orange Order parades passed off without serious incident despite Orangemen threatening protests and raising tension after being angered by a decision by the Parades Commission to ban them from marching through the nationalist Ardoyne and Dales area of north Belfast.
The Parades Commission ruled that a feeder parade would not be allowed to pass Ardoyne on its return from the Tour of the North on Friday, June 18th, provoking an angry response from within unionism.
Orangeman Tommy Cheevers, who sits on the North and West Belfast Parades Forum (NWBPF) – an umbrella body of unionist groups including members of the UDA and UVF – refused to rule out protests against the decision and went on to accuse the Parades Commission of “sabotaging talks” between the NWBPF and nationalist residents.
Nationalist residents of the area - which includes Ardoyne, Mountainview, Crumlin Road and the Dale streets, through which the loyalists planned to march - welcomed the Parades Commission ruling.
Residents’ group Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) expressed concerns over the march to the Parades Commission.
They were concerned about the violence that the area has witnessed over recent years, a result of unwanted Orange parades being brought past their homes.
Serious rioting erupted in the area last July after the return parade, led by The Pride of Ardoyne band, which has UVF connections, was forced through the area.
However, in spite of the attempts by some within Orangeism to heighten tensions around the Tour of the North parade, the event itself passed off peacefully.
Nationalist residents acting as stewards at flashpoint areas around the New Lodge Road, Unity Flats and Duncairn Gardens ensured that nationalists acted with restraint.
For their part, loyalist stewards acted as a buffer and prevented those following the parade from getting too close to nationalists who staged a protest at North Queen Street.
Although the Tour of the North went off without incident, the reality for nationalists in north Belfast and other areas such as the Springfield Road in West Belfast and Rasharkin in County Antrim is that Orange parades are still forced through their communities, causing major disruption to their lives.
As An Phoblacht goes to press, the people of the Springfield Road are bracing themselves for the annual Whiterock Parade on Saturday, June 26th.
This parade has a history of violence going back to the early 1970s when Orangemen and bands, many of whom have UVF connections, rampaged through the Lower Springfield Road and Clonard area. Indeed, the fighting that engulfed both Ardoyne and Short Strand in what became known as the Battle of St Matthews arose when loyalists returning from the Whiterock Parade attacked the small east Belfast enclave.
Seán Murray of the Springfield Residents’ Action Group has reitereated his call for the Orange Order to engage in genuine dialogue with residents to resolve the marching issue.
Meanwhile, Portadown Orangemen have threatened to march to Drumcree for their annual parade without permission.
The Orange Order has refused to submit an official application to the Parades Commission, raising the stakes ahead of this year’s parade on July 4th.
The Orange Order in Portadown has been barred from marching along the Garvaghy Road since 1998 and has refused to engage in dialogue with residents.

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