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Priest and Sinn Féin reps confronted by furious GARC protesters

ARDOYNE priest Fr Gary Donegan was angrily confronted by nationalist protesters who were against the deal that saw the end to the Ardoyne parading impasse.

The clergyman, who will leave Holy Cross this week to take up a new posting, attempted to speak to protesters but was shouted down by an angry crowd who chanted "shame, shame" at the popular priest.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly was also chased by the protesters with PSNI officers having to separate the two parties.

He said he believed the deal would hold.

"I think it is the dawn of a new era in this area and of course there is a knock-on effect. We will be looking to this and gaining hope for other areas."

GARC, which was widely blamed for orchestrating violence following previous loyal order parades, described the historic agreement as a "shady deal".

The group's protest had been limited to 60 people and confined to a specific section of Crumlin Road.

Metal barriers were put in place to ensure the Parades Commission determination was not breached.

Spokesman Dee Fennell slammed the policing operation.

He said: "We have seen hundreds of PSNI officers caging in this community in order to facilitate an unwanted sectarian parade. The vast majority of residents have rejected all sectarian parades and we have seen a heavy military operation which defeats the notion that there is widespread community support for this deal."

On Friday around 200 people attended a demonstration organised by GARC - long-time critics of Sinn Fein - aimed at highlighting opposition to Orange marches in Ardoyne.

The security bill associated with the impasse which included policing loyalist nightly parades at Twaddell is in the millions.

At its height it was estimated to cost around £1 million a week.

PSNI was also targeted a number of times by violent dissident republicans intent on murder.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin has praised the efforts of all involved in finding a resolution.

He said: "This weekend has seen a number of notified parades and protests take place in north Belfast. Thankfully, all of these passed off peacefully due to the concerted effort of a wide number of individuals.

"The impact that positive dialogue and discussion has played in this process cannot be underestimated and I congratulate all those who helped today to happen."

Church leaders have also hailed the talks process with Presbyterian Moderator Dr Frank Sellar describing the peaceful parade as a "watershed moment".

 

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