LOYALISTS attending Twelfth of July parades in Belfast on Monday attacked police with bottles, bricks, bolts, and other missiles when they were prevented, by order of the Parades Commission, from taking a route past a Nationalist interface.
The violence erupted as the parade, which was permitted to use the same location on the way to the central gathering in Belfast city centre that morning, was returning. Police were confronted at a steel barricade erected across Woodvale Road.
Twenty-five police officers were injured in the clashes, and a man appeared in court at Belfast on two charges of attempted murder, after a teenage girl, who had been watching the clashes, suffered multiple injuries when struck by a car.
The Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke and Dr Eamon Martin respectively, had called for mutual respect before the celebrations, and hundreds of parades passed off without incident.
“We call on everyone to ensure that the Twelfth will be celebrated in a dignified way which respects life and safety, and upholds peace and the diversity of traditions. We invite our parish communities to pray for all who seek to promote tolerance and respect,” the Archbishops had said in a joint statement.
In his speech at the main parade in Armagh, the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Edward Stevenson, told a crowd of supporters that the parades displayed an immense strength of community solidarity, fellowship, colour, and music, and referred to a “certain irony”, because a large parade was taking place peacefully in South Armagh, while, in Belfast and Portadown (Drumcree), the Order’s activities were restricted.
This was despite the fact that the Twelfth was now widely acknowledged as one of the largest festivals in Europe, and was now represented in two new dedicated museums. “Unfortunately, republican agitation and sectarianism against our cultural heritage is unrelenting,” Mr Stevenson said.
At the only Orange parade to take place in the Irish Republic, at Rossnowlagh, in Co. Donegal, on Saturday, more than 7000 marchers heard the Deputy Grand Master of the Order, Harold Henning, urge tolerance of differing views. Orangemen should respect the celebrations next year commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising in the Republic, he said, while others should show similar respect for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in which so many Irish people, of both traditions, fought and died.
Describing 1916 as of minimal relevance to the Orange Order, he said: “History is there, and it has to be remembered. Likewise, we would expect others to acknowledge the importance of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme next year to the unionist community on this island.”
Omagh priests robbed
TWO priests were threatened and robbed of a small amount of cash by masked men who broke into their parochial house at Brook Street, in Omagh, Northern Ireland, at the weekend. Neither of the priests was injured.
In Belfast, a priest has received minor injuries after being attacked during a burglary at St Peter’s Cathedral, in the Divis area of the city.
It has been reported that police are looking for two men who broke into the cathedral on Monday night, one of whom is believed to have been armed.