Twaddell cul-de-sac a two-way street again

Posted By: September 29, 2016

Allison Morris. Irish News (Belfast). Thursday, September 29, 2016

In 2013  a plethora of reporters and I  stood for the guts of ten hours at a riot in Woodvale in north Belfast. Ross Kemp was there filming which is never a good sign.

While the football tops of those throwing the stones, bottles, bolts and anything else that came to hand,  had changed from the previous year’s violence in Ardoyne,  the methods deployed were pretty much the same.

Riots are riots regardless of the religion or political affiliation of those involved, water cannon, plastic baton rounds, knowing where to stand or not stand in order to survive the ordeal – not always getting that right.

There is a point to this story, during a lull in proceedings I was chatting to a police officer who informed me that this was going to turn into another Drumcree. I asked how he knew and he said they’d been briefed that they were to prepare for the long haul.

I rolled my eyes, surely no-one would be daft enough to mimic Drumcree given how that played out for loyalism.

That cop was right, of course he was, he’d been briefed at the highest level and the person who briefed him had been briefed as well, I assume by the tactical mastermind who came up with the idea of putting a caravan on waste ground at an interface.

Over the last weekend details of an agreement were announced aimed at ending the long running parading dispute.

The deal was pretty much the same deal, bar a few changes in the language used, that has been on offer for the last three years.

Orangemen would complete their return parade and agree a ‘moratorium’ on applying for future return parades until such time as there is local agreement.

By the way there’ll never be local agreement, if there could be local agreement we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.

A similar deal collapsed before the Twelfth after one of the three lodges was excluded from negotiations and kicked up a fuss.

Their punishment for such dissent was to be left hanging at police lines on July 12 as the other two lodges failed to join them.

This very public humiliation caused most of that lodge to resign. The handful of members left have now agreed to the deal,  and good for them because there’s no better offer on the table.

And so after £21 million in policing costs, hundreds of people with criminal records for public order offences, several dissident republican attacks on the static police patrols, relations on both sides at an all time low, finally we have an agreement.

An agreement broadly welcomed and rightly so. The people living on both sides of the Crumlin Road interface are weary,  and who could blame them?

An anomaly of life in Northern Ireland is that there are the few who will now profit from the last three years through funding streams that are closed off to the majority of residents in the area.

Jobs for the boys, a culture of nepotism and cronyism has became an almost acceptable by-product of the peace process.

A large carrot may have been the motivating factor to finally negotiate a way out of the cul de sac that was Twaddell but if the outcome is normality returning to those who have had to endure three years of protest then I say it’s worth the cost.

There are of course those who object. The Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective at one time brought hundreds onto the streets, on July 12 this year they held a protest in the morning that had fewer than 50 people present and I’m including children and the odd stray dog in that figure.

It is unlikely, even if GARC do protest, that it will have any impact on the result and the parade will walk up the road this Saturday regardless.

Parading may have been settled but after decades of marching disputes and three years of protest, healing the hurt will take much longer.