EXCLUSIVE: LOYALISTS plan 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.
However, ahead of the Parades Commission decision, a loyalist residents’ group has called on the Orange Order to hold face to face talks ahead of the Twelfth of July as “a cynical ploy”.
The Twaddell and Woodvale Residents Association said they have called on three local lodges to engage in direct dialogue with nationalist CARA (Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association).
On Friday morning, the Orange Order has confirmed that three local lodges in north Belfast will hold talks with CARA.
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.”
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.”
Belfast Daily revealed in May how loyalists had drawn up a contigency plan to send thousands of Orangemen to Ardoyne this summer if restrictions are placed on its parade.
And if the Orange Order leadership doesn’t back them in the proposed Twelth of July stand-off, hundreds are planning to resign in protest.
We revealed that loyalists are angry over those who were involved in May’s Cardiff talks and the fact that the disbandment of the Parades Commission was not on the agenda.
Loyalist leaders included UDA brigadiers Jackie McDonald and John Bunting along with Winston Irvine of the PUP.
A senior Orange source said loyalists had now decided to take a tougher stance against the Parades Commission.
“The simple fact is this: if the Parades Commission determines a no return through the Ardoyne on the Twelfth or even an early return, plans are in place to bring as many lodges to the Crumlin Road to carry out a stand-off,” the senior Orange source told Belfast Daily.
“This operation alone will cost the PSNI millions of pounds, not the £23,000 they paid to fly 35 people to Cardiff.
“If the Orange Order leadership in Belfast doesn’t back the men, then hundreds and hundreds of brethren will resign in protest.
“They are enraged at the so-called Cardiff agreement being done with people who don’t represent them.
“They are also very very angry at the PSNI being referred to by the DUP as a ‘police service to trust and work with’.”
It was also revealed in May that the Orange Order was looking into the possibility of a contingency plan for the Twelfth of July parade in north Belfast.
Senior Orangemen had asked Belfast City Council about the availability of Ballysillan Playing Fields as a meeting or dispersal point.
Organisers want to be able to make a snap decision to change the parade venue if necessary.
It would only be used if they were unable to take their normal route, which passes some contentious areas.
However, Belfast Daily understands that Sinn Fein also wanted to hold a “fun day” at the Ballysillan playing fields on the same day.
The enquiry by Orangeman was submitted to the council by William Mawhinney, the secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.
In a letter dated 19 March, he wrote: “On behalf of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast, may I make an enquiry as to the availability of Ballysillan Playing Fields and any associated costs on Friday 12th July 2013 from 1pm to 4pm inclusive.”
The request was referred to the council’s Parks and Leisure committee.
During a meeting of the committee in May, a few more details of the Orange Order’s contingency plan emerged.
A council document stated that the order does not intend to use the playing fields “for an event” but was inquiring about the availability for its car park “as a meeting and/or dispersal point for up to 8,000 people, should the need arise, as part of the parade”.
The document said that the Orange Order would provide its own stewards on the day.
Within the council paper it is also noted that Mr Mawhinney has said the order was only enquiring about availability and would confirm their request closer to 12 July.
However, sources within the Orange Order and within loyalism said that the site at Ballysillan could be used for a Twelfth demonstration for marchers, bandsmen and supporters from north Belfast, if required.
The sources also emphasised that this was a contingency measure and that, at present, the parade organisers still intend to go ahead with their usual Twelfth demonstration, along their normal route.
At the council meeting, it was asked to consider allowing the council’s director of parks and leisure to make the decision about the availability of the playing fields to the Orange Order.
Bt some nationalist councillors on the Parks and Leisure committee have said they are not happy with that request.
They said it was not a decision for one person but one that committee members should make.
The nationalist councillors said they wanted more information about what exactly the Orange Order was proposing.