Northern Ireland news

Orangeman John Aughey, jailed for driving into crowd in Ardoyne, joins marchers at main Belfast parade

Orangeman John Aughey (right) marches through Donegall Street on the Twelfth after being released from jail earlier this year. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

AN Orange Order member jailed for driving into pedestrians during an interface protest has taken part in a Twelfth march weeks after his release.

John Aughey walked alongside fellow Orangemen at the main parade in Belfast on Thursday, dressed in full regalia.

It is believed that Aughey did not participate in the feeder parade past Ardoyne shops.

Witnesses said he turned his head away when he saw a photographer at Donegall Street.

The Orange Order had repeatedly said it had "no comment" to make when asked by The Irish News if it was going to expel Aughey following his conviction last year.

It did not respond to requests for comment regarding his participation in Thursday's Twelfth march.

However, senior Orangeman Mervyn Gibson - while not commenting on the individual case of Aughey - said that those who have served their sentence are "entitled to a life after that without being hounded".

Aughey, from the Ballysillan area of north Belfast, was convicted last year of six offences after he drove his car into a crowd amid chaotic scenes at the Ardoyne shops on July 13 2015.

Tensions at the interface were high that evening following a Parades Commission determination which banned an Orange lodge and flute band from returning past the predominantly nationalist area.

During his trial, Aughey denied driving deliberately at the crowd and said that while sitting in traffic he reacted "in a blind panic" after becoming aware of abuse and shouting directed towards him. He also said his wing mirror was kicked and a missile hit his car.

Six people, some of them police officers, were injured after Aughey tried to make a U-turn.

Phoebe Clawson (16) was struck and thrown onto the bonnet before becoming trapped under his car, sustaining fractures to her collarbone, pelvis and ankle.

It is understood Aughey was released from prison in May.

Mervyn Gibson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, said that the institution "does not discuss internal matters" but did not dispute the sightings of Aughey at the Belfast parade.

Mr Gibson said that while he could not be drawn on individual cases, "someone who has faced the law is entitled to a life after that without being hounded".

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