THE Orange Order has agreed to hold talks with a nationalist residents’ group ahead of next week’s Twelfth of July parade in north Belfast.
It followed a call by the Twaddell and Woodvale Residents Association for the Order to enter into dialogue with CARA (Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association).
On Friday morning, the Orange Order responded positively to the request for talks.
In a statement, the Orange Order said: “The community of Twaddell and Woodvale has appealed to the local lodges involved in parading along the Crumlin Road on the Twelfth morning and evening to engage in direct talks with a local Nationalist residents group.
“In response to this request and after numerous meetings; the three lodges concerned have agreed along with the local community to enter into direct talks with the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association.
“The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast respects and supports their Ligoniel lodges in this decision.
“This initiative builds on the success of the Comprehensive Template and is further evidence that the Orange family is committed to working towards peaceful resolutions,” it added.
The move has been welcomed by First Minister Peter Robinson.
He said “The Orange Order have taken a number of positive steps in order to make progress in resolving problems.”
It was also welcomed by SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness.
He said: “This development represents a major breakthrough.
“I hope that through dialogue and mutual respect we may be able to find a long term solution to the parading issue in this part of North Belfast.”
However, another nationalist residents’ group, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), has released a statement describing the move as “nothing more than a cynical ploy to dictate a loyalist agenda to the residents of Greater Ardoyne.”
“This deception will neither work nor fool our community,” the GARC statement said.
“If the Loyal Orders are serious about real and meaningful talks with residents they must first speak directly to those who represent the majority of residents in the Greater Ardoyne area and not to an artificially created front group, who neither represent the opinion nor views of the majority within our community around the issue of unwelcome sectarian parades, otherwise any other avenue would be a waste of time and doomed to failure.”
The move towards talks came after Belfast Daily revealed that loyalists were threatening to march back through Ardoyne on the Twelfth of July if the Parades Commission rules against them.
An Orange Order lodge and bandsmen have applied to parade past the Ardoyne shop fronts on their return journey home from the field in south Belfast next Friday, July 12.
However, PSNI intelligence has warned that if the Parades Commission bans the return journey, loyalists will defy the ruling and try and force its march through Ardoyne.
It will cause a major headache for the PSNI in its efforts to keep warring sides apart in north Belfast.
Police chiefs fear dissident republicans will exploit the situation, turning the north Belfast area into a ‘battle zone’ with police officers caught in the middle yet again.
In previous years, dissident republicans have used the controversial parade as an opportunity to attack police lines with pipe bombs, gunfire and also hijack cars.
The Parades Commission is expected to publish its determination on Friday.