Violence flares as Orange Order demands right to march in Catholic area
Police injured by rioters as they stop marchers from entering nationalist area
Rioting loyalists, some wielding swords, attacked the police in a major outbreak of violence as their anger over a parade ban exploded. Thirty police were injured in the rioting.
July 12th is the traditional marching day when they celebrate King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne.
This year, widespread rioting by Loyalist took place in Belfast after they were stopped from marching close to a Catholic area in Ardoyne, North Belfast.
A PSNI spokesman said: "There is an element within these crowds that is intent on violence. Public safety is of paramount concern and individuals if they are gathering to watch events are advised to disperse."
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly blamed the violence directly on the Orange Order and unionist politicians.
"Speech after speech at the various (Orange) demonstrations were clearly designed to stir up sectarian tension and have alongside the Orange Order's failure to abide by Parades Commission determinations led directly to the violence in Belfast," he said last night.
"No amount of hand-wringing or denial in the coming days from the Orange Order and unionist politicians can alter that reality.
"People had a right to expect better, instead what we got was a very deliberate strategy with the inevitable results being seen on the streets."
As violence escalated the Orange order rescinded an earlier call for opposition to the march being banned but it was too late to prevent much of the violence.
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds, who had condemned the march ban in increasingly strong language this week, was himself reportedly injured in the disturbances that followed.
Dodds had earlier accused the Northern Ireland Secretary Secretary Theresa Villiers of ‘deliberate deception’ in how she responded to the Parades Commission ban.
The leader of the Orange Order has described the Parades Commission decision to restrict the Orange Order march through the north Belfast nationalist area of the Ardoyne as absurd.
Instead Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson called on Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to scrap the Parade Commission rather than the march.
But the commission, which determines where and when parades can march in Northern Ireland, refused to lift the ban that would have seen the Order parade through an area where their presence is seen as an annual provocation.
A recent study found that 70% of the annual parades in Northern Ireland are organised by Protestant or unionist groups. In total 2863 parades were held in 2007 and of these 2270 were loyalist, 144 were nationalist, the study found.
'The absurdity of preventing three Orange Lodges in Ligoniel from partaking in a dignified parade on their return from the Twelfth celebrations, while rewarding those who engage in violence and go out of their way to be offended by our traditions, has surely sounded the death knell for this charade of a commission,' Stevenson told the Belfast Telegraph.
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