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Orangemen experience Brand loyalty at Twaddell

Published 15/11/2013

Allison Morris

LOYALISTS have told how they thought "it was a prank" when controversial comedian Russell Brand asked to visit their north Belfast protest camp.

The top funnyman visited Camp Twaddell while conducting a tour of Belfast on Wednesday ahead of his sell-out show at the Waterfront.

Loyalists have been protesting at Twaddell Avenue since July, after a decision to restrict an Orange Order parade.

The visit was organised by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire who was showing him around the city before he took to the stage on his Messiah Complex tour.

Brand's visit to the protest camp did not feature in Wednesday night's show.

Loyalist spokesman Gerald Solinas told how he got a call at around 4.45pm on Wednesday to say the comedian had arrived at the camp.

He said that Nobel laureate Ms Corrigan first called in and said that Brand was interested in talking to the protesters.

"When I first got the call I thought it was a prank, there were two women and a man at the camp when he called and they put him on the phone.

"He seemed genuinely interested and asked all about what we were doing, what it was all about that sort of thing.

"By the time I arrived at the camp he was just leaving, as far as I know he was heading into Ardoyne for a look around there.

"Before he left he gave the two ladies a kiss on the cheek so they were very pleased.

"By all accounts he was a real gentleman, from the protesters point of view it's just good that people from outside the city are taking a genuine interest in what's going on.

"Having someone with the kind of profile Russell Brand has visiting with the camp is always going to be a positive event but the gates of the camp are open to anyone who is genuinely interested in finding out more about the protest."

One of the protesters who was there during the visit said: "When I came out of the caravan, he was standing talking to a crowd of people who had gathered.

"He asked if we expected to be here long and we told him we hoped to be back up the road by Christmas."

Russell Brand's management confirmed he had visited the camp but declined to comment saying it was a private matter.

Loyalists have been staging a permanent protest at the inter-face since July when the Parades Commission ruled a July 12 Orange Order march could not walk a contested section of the Crumlin Road.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has said that the protest and nightly parades are costing £50,000 a day to police.