Published Friday, 07 September 2012
Rioters at Ardoyne after the Twelfth of July parades. (© Pacemaker)
Tens of thousands of Orangemen and their supporters are expected in Belfast later this month for a special march to Stormont to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
Hopes are high that the major parade will pass off without incident when it takes place on 29 September as talks between police, community leaders, Loyal Orders, politicians and church representatives continue in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violence witnessed in north Belfast earlier this week.
The disorder began prior to a Republican march passing through the area on Sunday.
In what is being hailed as a game changer, the Royal Black Institution issued an unprecedented apology on Thursday for defying a Parades Commission ruling outside St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street last month.
The ban was imposed after a loyalist band played a song alleged to be sectarian outside the same church on the Twelfth of July.
Millar Farr, the Sovereign Grand Master of the institution, said in an open letter that "the sense of injustice and hurt felt by the members of the Royal Black Institution" was focused on the Parades Commission - not St Patrick's Church.
"Parading is embedded in the DNA of the Protestant community but the Parades Commission has shown an appalling lack of understanding about what that means," he said.
The resolution process was given another boost on Friday when the Grand Lodge of Ireland released a statement saying it "fully supports the sentiments expressed" in the apology.
We are genuinely committed in finding a just and equitable resolution to these matters.
Discussing the centenary march, the Orange Order said: "This landmark occasion allows a unique opportunity to commemorate one of the most momentous and cultural events in the history of these islands, and as we move into a period involving a number of significant centenaries it is essential that we celebrate our different cultures in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.
North Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Maskey has welcomed the decision by the Loyal Orders to withdraw.
"It is difficult to understand the type of mindset that thought this was a good idea in the first place especially considering the current climate around contentious Loyal Order parades.
"The application was unnecessary and unhelpful as we attempt to lower tensions around the 29th September march and come to a resolution agreeable to all."
He said the application should never have been made.
Nichola Mallon, SDLP Councillor for the area, has described it as "a positive move."
She said the decision adds to "the space for reflection and discussion created by the Royal Black Institution's apology."
"We are in a better environment to that which we inhabited even a week ago and there is the possibility, with direct meaningful local engagement, to create the room needed to establish a lasting mood of respect and community confidence.
"The leadership and dignity shown by the Carrickhill Residents, combined with the response of the Loyal Orders in recent days have the potential to redefine the issue of contentious parades and move towards a solid grounding in mutual respect."
Joe Marley, of nationalist residents group CARA, told UTV the about turn sat alongside other efforts being made to diffuse tensions.
He said Loyal Orders now need to engage in direct talks with local residents to "finding a lasting resolution" to the issue.
© UTV News