Ardoyne holds its breath as parade looms

Fears are growing that loyalists are planning to block roads throughout Belfast at the weekend in protest at the Parades Commission’s decision to ban the Apprentice Boys from marching past Ardoyne on Saturday.

And leading Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers had added to these concerns by insisting dialogue with nationalists is dead and that it is impossible to predict how loyalists will react to the Parades Commission’s verdict

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Mr Cheevers refused to rule out the possibility that roads could be blocked.

“I cannot predict how loyalist communities will react but what I do know is that they are exceptionally angry,” he said.

“This was a political decision made to create space before talks in September. The Parades Commission was told what verdict to make.

“Loyalist communities know this and they are telling me they are considering pulling out of all talks with representatives of nationalist residents’ groups.

“As for whether roads in Belfast will be blocked at the weekend, I honestly don’t know, but dialogue is definitely dead.”

North Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenegan said the nationalist community is expecting protest action from loyalists.

“They threatened it when the Springfield Road march was originally banned at the end of June so it comes as no surprise that we’re hearing it again,” she said.

“Perhaps they think by making threats the Parades Commission will perform a U-turn.

“What the Apprentice Boys need to understand is that had they bothered to engage with the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group we may have been able to reach an amicable situation.

“It is their failure to talk to residents which has brought about this problem.”

The Parades Commission took the decision to ban 55 Apprentice Boys from parading by Ardoyne last Friday.

The Apprentice Boys wanted to march past the nationalist estate before boarding buses and setting off to their main demonstration in Derry.

On July 12 Ardoyne residents were fenced into their homes by the PSNI and British Army to accommodate an Orange Order march passing by the area. This resulted in the worst rioting seen in Belfast in two years.

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

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