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Growing hopes for lasting Ardoyne resolution

There will be enormous relief if the agreement reached between Orange Order members and a group of nationalist residents in north Belfast leads to improved community relations there on a long-term basis as well as finally removing the notorious Twaddell Avenue protest camp.

Tensions over a loyalist march along a contentious stretch of the Crumlin Road beside the nationalist Ardoyne district have had serious consequences in recent years, and have regularly been exploited by extreme elements on both sides of the sectarian divide.

However, all the indications are that the ramshackle infrastructure based around a lone caravan on the Twaddell interface, which appallingly has cost an estimated £20m to police since 2013, will be dismantled after an early morning parade this Saturday.

The Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Association (Cara) and the Ligoniel Orange lodges, together with facilitators the Rev Harold Good and Derry businessman Jim Roddy, all deserve considerable credit for their role in the sensitive negotiations which produced the breakthrough.

There will be some surprise that an invitation to join the discussions was not extended to another organisation with a strong presence in the area, the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (Garc), which unlike Cara is not regarded as sympathetic to Sinn Féin.

It may be argued that Garc was unlikely to consider any deal which involved the completion of an Orange parade along the Crumlin Road which has been effectively blocked since 2013, but it is a pity that at least an initial attempt to involve it in the process did not prove possible.

Garc, for its part, should ensure that any protests it may think about staging on Saturday morning are kept low key and above all peaceful in nature.

We are close to an outcome which provides a dignified compromise between nationalists and unionists and brings an end to a protest camp which was surrounded by controversy and resulted in an entirely unacceptable burden on the public purse.

The Parades Commission was left with the unenviable task of adjudicating on the repeated applications for loyalist demonstrations along the Crumlin Road, and it should be recognised that it has exerted a fair and positive influence in the most difficult of circumstances.

There has been a sense for some time that individuals of good will from both main traditions have made significant progress towards resolving issues linked to marches which in the past have resulted in regular confrontations and even violence.

If Saturday's scheduled parade passes off without incident, another important step forward will have been confirmed.

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