Funding for Twaddell group as loyalist protest escalates

Policing the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast has cost around £19m to date

MORE than £100,000 is to be paid to a community project at Twaddell Avenue, as a loyalist protest at the north Belfast interface escalates.

Loyalists have been protesting at the flashpoint since July 2013, when the Parades Commission banned an Orange Order march from passing the nationalist Ardoyne area.

Today marks the 1,000th day of the protest and a band parade will be held this evening, to be addressed by Belfast County Grand Master George Chittick.

An Orange Order source said the theme of the speech would be that there will be no let-up until the three affected lodges walk back along the contested section of the Crumlin Road.

The cost of policing the protest to date is believed to be in excess of £19 million, equivalent to £24,000 a day. The majority of the bill is police overtime.

There has been a static police presence at a loyalist protest 'camp'.

Last week members of the Glasgow-based Regimental Blues group said they would be taking over duties at the camp, marking an escalation in activity.

Talks aimed at ending the protest have to date failed to reach a solution.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) announced this week that it would be giving £109,857 to the Twaddell Woodvale Residents Association.

It said the money would be used to extend and expand a project developed with Twaddell Women's Interface Group and local residents for an additional 12 months.

"The project will continue to focus on conflict transformation and peace building; developing skills for employment, and supporting organisational and community capacity building," a spokesman said.

It is believed the project is aimed at encouraging residents to re-engage with statutory agencies including the PSNI following a breakdown in communication since the protests started.

A further £756,000 will be shared among seven community groups as part of a peace wall programme.

Of that £96,000 will go to Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities in Transition. The cross-community group, which includes several loyalist and republican ex-prisoners, was set up to discuss the future removal of peace walls in the interface area.

The funding is part of £1.9m cross-border package, with 20 initiatives benefitting.

IFI chairman Dr Adrian Johnston said: "With our assistance, many communities that are vulnerable to violence have become more resilient and remained with the peace process.

"We are supporting groups who are taking measured risks and developing new ideas to transform their communities."

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