18 June 2005

BBC

Parade ruling 'breaches' examined

The police are investigating alleged breaches of a Parades Commission ruling by protesters after violence erupted at an Orange Order parade in Belfast.

Eighteen police officers and 11 others were injured in the trouble during Friday's Tour of the North parade.

Missiles were thrown by nationalist protesters as the parade passed a flashpoint area at Ardoyne on its return journey.

Six petrol bombs were thrown as police used water cannon to regain order.

Trouble flared at about 2100 BST as three lodges, followed by supporters, went past Ardoyne shops on the Crumlin Road, where nationalists had gathered to protest against the march.

Marchers had been separated from the protesters by a corridor of about 60 Land Rovers and police in riot gear, but were pelted with missiles, including bottles, bricks and golf balls.

There were further clashes between police and protesters and two water cannon were deployed. Six petrol bombs were then thrown. A teenager's arm was broken during the trouble.

PSNI District Commander, Chief Supt Mike Little, said his officers had come under "sustained attack".

He described the trouble as "extremely disappointing" and said officers would be investigating a breach of the Parades Commission ruling by the protesters.

"We will be examining CCTV footage from the scene and will work to bring all those found breaking the law to justice," he said.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said blame for the trouble lay with the original ruling by the Parades Commission.

"It has been a complete disaster from the decision," he said.

"We spent all year arguing that the Parades Commission should have the ability to deal with supporters as well," he said.

Police powers

However, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, of the DUP, said the fault lay with the protesters.

"The determination allowed for a peaceful protest. The protest was violent. Orange brethren, bandspeople and supporters and everybody else followed the determination to the letter.

"Even when they were under attack, nobody responded. They didn't flaunt anything, they didn't have anything provocative. They were attacked viciously."

SDLP assembly member Alban McGuinness said the trouble did not auger well for the coming marching season.

"There have been a series of incidents here, and I must say, a very, very unfortunate lead into the marching season," he said.

"This does not bode well. It has done nothing for community relations."

The march was the first to be affected by an extension of the law governing the behaviour of parade supporters.

It gave police wider powers to control the movement and behaviour of parade followers at flashpoint areas.

The Tour of the North is among the first of a series of parades by Protestant Orangemen which culminates in the biggest demonstrations on 12 July.

A ruling by the Parades Commission had restricted nationalist protesters to the footpath outside the Ardoyne shops and loyalists supporters also face restrictions, following conflict at a parade last July.

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