Posted By: July 24, 2013

Allison Morris.Irish News( Belfast). Wednesday,July 24, 2013.
MERVYN Gibson said the Twelfth wouldn’t be over until Orangemen from Ligoniel were
all home. When exactly that will be is anyone’s guess. The controversial reverend
obviously didn’t mean literally home, as all the ageing order members haven’t been
camped out like refugees on Woodvale Road for almost two weeks. Members of the
Ligoniel lodges went home for their tea long ago, they just didn’t march past the
Ardoyne flashpoint on the way. The Belfast lodges now plan to hold a
‘Drumcree-style’ parade to police lines every Saturday until they get to walk the
disputed section of Crumlin Road.

After all, it was a tactic that worked so well for the Portadown lodges.

Thankfully, the first of those weekly protests on Saturday passed off peacefully,
unlike the disgraceful scenes of the week before. But then in reality the Parades
Commission could never have made a determination that would have guaranteed a
peaceful outcome in Ardoyne. While permitting the morning parade and banning the
afternoon may have seemed like a decent compromise to the right-minded, it was never
going to satisfy the order which sees Ardoyne as the final frontier. There was going
to be a riot and the only difference was what football shirt the stone throwers were
wearing. Despite the Orange Order’s hand-washing of responsibility for the Twelfth
violence, elders of the organisation could not have failed to be embarrassed by the
scenes of drunken lawlessness. The area’s MP Nigel Dodds deserves some credit for
remaining on the ground while the unelected leaders of loyalism were off on holiday.
For his troubles he got hit with a flying missile that fell suspiciously short of
its target. Former EastEnders ‘hardman’ Ross Kemp was also in the thick of it, his
documentary team recording the disgraceful events for a programme that will show
Belfast at its very worst. When asked could he imagine a similar situation in
England, a six-hour riot and an MP knocked unconscious and carted off in an
ambulance, he replied: “It just wouldn’t happen, it wouldn’t be allowed to.” And yet
here in Northern Ireland, a place Margaret Thatcher described as being as British as
Finchley, these are annual scenes. This was not culture, it wasn’t celebrating
religious liberty. What was witnessed were gangs of people drunk on cheap alcohol
venting sectarian bile. Not a mask between them, all captured on the many cameras
the PSNI had pointed at them both on the ground and from the sky. Were they so angry
they didn’t care or so drunk they didn’t realise the consequences of their actions?

Regardless, prison looms large for the worst offenders and I live in hope for the
safety of the general public and the good of mankind that the vile man who performed
a lewd act just feet from where I was standing is one of them. Something has to be
done and holding a peaceful protest in the wake of a violent one doesn’t address the
underlying problem. Submitting weekly applications knowing the outcome before the
ink on the form has even dried is just a very expensive delaying tactic, with
policing costs already in the millions. The Portadown lodges have tried the same
tactic in Drumcree for 15 years and might as well carry on for another 15 for all
the good it has done them. Surely not even the Orange Order wants to be still
holding protests on the small stretch of road at the top of the loyalist Shankill,
just a few hundred yards from the staunchly republican Ardoyne, months from now.
It’s all very well now with glorious weather making the process of attracting
thousands on to the streets relatively easy.

Fast-forward to the heart of winter when the events of the last few weeks fade in
people’s memories and the lunatics who attacked police are being subjected to the
full rigours of the law. Like the flag protests that caused havoc in winter months
before eventually fizzling out, that is exactly the scenario we’re now looking at.
It seems that the days of the Parades Commission are numbered. But it must be
remembered that the commission was only intended as a temporary measure. Powers of
arbitration on parades were always meant to be transferred locally following

Unionist politicians, after a horrendous year of what has been appalling leadership,
need to claim a victory and the scalp of the marching watchdog is the trophy they
need to reassure an insecure loyalist community. Getting rid of the commission is
easy, what you replace it with is trickier. Before the commission, the then RUC made
the call, supposedly based on which option was easier to police. Problem was
pre-Patten, the force was not seen as impartial and, with many officers also members
of the loyal orders, decisions were viewed as partisan. The other option being
floated is putting it in the hands of a new arbitration body, a ‘parades commission
light,’ under the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. That will
leave Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness both battling over which voters to enrage
by either allowing or banning parading past Ardoyne, Ormeau, Druncree, Rasharkin. If
speculation that Nigel Dodds is leader-inwaiting of the DUP turns out to be well
founded, that complicates matters even further. Which one is willing to disappoint
their electorate and feel the wrath of an entire community?

If a solution is to be found, normality must be returned to provide space for talks
to take place. And this will only happen when the protests stop and Mervyn Gibson
confirms that the Twelfth is finally over, because if it carries on much longer
we’ll be carving turkey to the strains of The Sash.