Cool heads helped maintain calm in Northern Ireland during the peak of this year’s marching season, the North’s justice minister said.
Police, Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, and senior Stormont politicians have lauded the peaceful outcome of the Twelfth of July celebrations, which followed united unionist appeals for no trouble and nationalist efforts to defuse tensions.
Thousands of loyal order members commemorated the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, but there was virtually no confrontation and the flashpoint Ardoyne parade in North Belfast ended without violence.
David Ford, the North’s justice minister said: “The professionalism shown by PSNI officers has delivered a day of peaceful parades right across Northern Ireland and I congratulate all involved.
“Many people across the community worked to ensure the day passed peacefully and I welcome those efforts. This year we have shown how cool heads and careful words helped to keep the situation calm and I would hope that approach continues so we can work towards resolution of all contentious parades.”
Members of the Orange Order staged a peaceful protest in north Belfast after restrictions were imposed on their parade.
Bands played music, supporters cheered and sang, and demonstrators carried a protest banner as they were halted a short distance from the nationalist Ardoyne area. Some supporters held Union flag umbrellas.
“The Orange Order and unionist leaders are to be commended for the intensive work they have done to bring that about,” said Ms Villiers.
“Nationalist leaders also played their part in working hard to defuse local tensions.
“The chief constable and the PSNI displayed great professionalism throughout in keeping people safe and secure. They have my sincere thanks for all that they do. As ever we are indebted to them.”
The Parades Commission decided loyal order members should not be allowed to continue past the contested section of Ardoyne. Last year a similar decision sparked days of loyalist rioting and pitched battles with police.
At the 17 main parades across Northern Ireland, marchers stopped for six minutes — the time it would take to complete the Ardoyne parade — and a statement was read out calling for the commission to be scrapped.
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