Orange Order mounts silent parade

Around 15 Orange Order members have paraded without incident through a sectarian flashpoint in North Belfast.

Representatives of three lodges and a band walked silently through the sectarian interface at Ardoyne, flanked by riot police with batons, shields and helmets.

Nationalist protesters held placards as they watched them go past, exchanging insults with loyalist supporters in the urban area of terraced houses.

Hundreds of anti-riot police were on duty today amid fears of street disorder in north Belfast after a big Orange Order demonstration in the city.

Politicians on all sides, as well as the Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, have appealed for calm in the Catholic Ardoyne district where dissident republicans are to protest against a returning parade by some Orangemen from neighbouring Protestant districts.

The Parades Commission which adjudicates on contentious marches has ruled the Orangemen must return along the Crumlin Road past Ardoyne by 4pm.

Police separated loyalists from republicans at a junction close to the shops and closed off some roads with rows of plastic shields forming a formidable barrier.

There were a few insults hurled by the nationalist side while loyalist supporters cheered, clapped the Orangemen on the back and sang the Sash, a song representative of Orange culture which many Catholics find antagonistic.

Nationalists held placards accusing Orangemen of trampling on residents’ rights.

Catholics and Protestants live cheek by jowl in the area.

The marchers carried large banners on wooden sticks representing their lodges.

A decision was taken to bus them to near Ardoyne to comply with a Parades Commission ruling that they be marched past by 4pm.

A dissident republican march is expected later this afternoon in the same area.

Assistant chief constable Will Kerr said police were extremely encouraged that the vast majority of areas across Northern Ireland passed off peacefully last night.

“Despite some localised pockets of disorder this was the quietest 11th night in policing terms that we have seen for a number of years,” he said.

“Ten people were arrested last night in Belfast and we will continue to take a very robust approach to anyone engaging in violence, criminal activity or putting local communities at risk. The robust action shown last night will continue over the next few days.

“Our message is clear – anyone engaging in violence runs the very real risk of being convicted and ending up with a criminal record.”

He said police greatly appreciated the active support shown last night and over recent days from community leaders and representatives to deliver the quietest night that Northern Ireland has experienced in many years. This clearly sets a more positive tone for the rest of today.

The senior officer added: “We will continue to support and work with communities to reduce tensions over the next few days and would encourage all members of the public to behave responsibly, to show tolerance to others and continue to work with us to ensure a peaceful 12th period.

“This is what the vast majority of people here in Northern Ireland want, need and deserve.”

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