Northern Ireland news

Twaddell: Senior Orangeman blames Parades Commission 'muppets'

Claire Simpson and David Young
07 April, 2016 22:20

THE Parades Commission must be scrapped and a contentious march in north Belfast allowed to go ahead, a senior Orangeman said as a loyalist camp marked its 1,000th night of protest.

The bitter parading impasse at the Woodvale/Ardoyne interface has seen disorder in recent years, including rioting in 2015.

Loyalist protesters have manned the camp on Twaddell Avenue for almost three years after the Parades Commission prevented Orangemen from passing Ardoyne along a stretch of the Crumlin Road as they returned from the 2013 Twelfth demonstrations.

Almost £20 million of public money has been spent policing the nightly protests at Twaddell.

Thousands of people, including loyalist bands took part in a march to the camp at Twaddell.

George Chittick, county grand master of the Belfast Grand Orange Lodge, told the crowd the camp had the support of "tens of thousands of people from all shades of Unionism and Loyalism who are committed to see the Ligoniel lodges complete their 12th July parade".

He blamed the impasse on "intransigent, sectarian, republicanism and legislation that is blatantly a protesters' charter".

"Our brethren at Drumcree have been protesting continually against the same injustice," he said.

"The question is not should changes in the legislation take place - the question is when such changes will take place as change they must."

Mr Chittick described the Parades Commission as "muppets" and claimed it made "irrational and flawed decisions, often based upon scurrilous submissions that are never made available to the public".

He called on Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to change parading legislation and asked unionist parties "what steps" they will take to end rows over parades.

Earlier, Belfast Deputy Grand Master Spencer Beattie said he was optimistic the Twaddell parade impasse could be resolved before the marching season.

"If the parade is allowed home I stand ready, as soon as that parade is up the road, to go into any form of conversation that is necessary to seek a long-term solution to the problem," he said.

Ardoyne parish priest Fr Gary Donegan claimed the "moderate voice" of nationalism in the area was prepared to countenance compromise.

"Let's actually make this once and for all a situation where, okay, it isn't perfect for everybody, everybody is going to have to take a hit on this, everybody is going to have to swallow hard but, at the end of the day, it's for the future of our society and the future of the children of both of those communities," he said.

Fr Donegan insisted any accommodation had to be struck at a local level.

"You get all sorts of well-meaning people come up with hare-brained ideas as to how to solve these things, but they haven't lived a single night here," he said.

He said the cost of policing the camp was regrettable.

"When you are based in an area of social deprivation you realise what £20 million, what £10 million could have done in both communities," he said.

07 April, 2016 22:20 Northern Ireland news