The Protestant Orange Order has claimed that the Good Friday Agreement is incapable of delivering fair and just government and insisted there can be no cabinet places for Sinn Féin until the IRA has disappeared.
The claim came as more than 60,000 members of the Protestant marching institution took part in 18 marches across Northern Ireland yesterday to mark King William III’s victory in the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.
The largest demonstration was in Belfast and took two hours to wind its way through the city centre.
Orange Order members who gathered at fields in the 18 venues across Northern Ireland backed resolutions which expressed regret at the recent divisions in unionism.
The order said: “We believe the agreement, being unable to remove the threat of violence by some who are signatories to it, cannot give us the fair and just government we need and want.
“Until there is proof that the IRA is gone and its terrorist activities have ceased there should be no place for Sinn Féin in the government of Northern Ireland.
“We have been given ample reason to doubt the sincerity and honesty of the government of the United Kingdom working in tandem with foreign governments and we have deep concerns about their proposals for our future.”
The order also expressed regret at police reforms in Northern Ireland and condemned the activities of “criminals, arsonists, vandals and thugs” who injured people or destroyed property.
The divisions in the Ulster Unionist Party were evident at several 12th of July demonstrations, with two MPs facing disciplinary action in the party – Jeffrey Donaldson and the Reverend Martin Smyth – addressing Orangemen in County Down at Hillsborough and Crossgar.
Orangemen also took part in marches to Rathfriland, Ballymartin, Holywood in Co Down, in Glengormley, Ballymena, Portglenone, Rasharkin and Broughshane in Co Antrim, in Garvagh and Limavady in Co Derry, Markethill in County Armagh, Lisnasken in Co Fermanagh and Fintona, Cookstown and Fivemiletown in Co Tyrone.
The third rebel Ulster unionist MP David Burnside marched in the Glengormley demonstration.
Security chiefs were pleased that the feeder parades into the main demonstration in Belfast passed off peacefully.
The most contentious parade was past the nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast where there was a huge police and army presence to keep rival sides apart.
Around 100 nationalist protesters gathered with placards and chanted the slogan: “No talk, no walk” as Orangemen went past.
The residents had failed to overturn a Parades Commission decision to allow the march to go ahead.
As Orangemen made their way back past the Ardoyne shops, some stones and bottles were thrown from the nationalist side and there were skirmishes.
Tensions remained high in the area overnight and the police and army erected 12ft high barriers to keep rival sides apart.
Sinn Féin’s policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, claimed nationalists had retaliated to stone-throwing and sectarian taunts from the loyalist side as the parade passed Ardoyne.
“To be perfectly honest with you, we are taking it in the neck from some people here,” he said.
“People are saying they don’t want to take it any more. People can see that while a lot of good work is being done on the interfaces, this parade is getting bigger and the number of hangers-on on the loyalist side is getting bigger.”