FIRST MINISTER Peter Robinson has said the Orange Order’s decision to mount protests over a ruling banning a return Twelfth parade past the Ardoyne shops is “justified”.
The DUP leader said the unionist community had “every right to be angry” over the decision made by the Parades Commission.
Mr Robinson made his comments in an interview with UTV live on Thursday evening.
He said: “Here is the dilemma that the Parades Commission have created, are people not allowed to express their anger at these matters?
“That was the reason that my colleagues and I put down a motion for the recall of the assembly, so there can be an outlet for the anger and also to give an opportunity to those from the nationalist republican tradition to put out very clearly what is their intention when they talk about a shared society.”
Mr Robinson added that he supported the Orange Order in their call for protests to be carried out in a “peaceful manner”.
“There is a lot of anger within the unionist community and it is justified and it justifies protest.”
Following a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott on policing preparations, NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers expressed concern about the protests.
“Those who are calling people on to the streets at a time of heightened tension must be aware of the possible consequences of their actions and the potential risks to public safety that could result,” she said.
She urged for responsible political leadership and participation from community leaders to ensure a peaceful Twelfth.
“I fully appreciate how strongly people across the community feel about parading,” she said.
“But it’s hugely important that they continue talking to each other and that they abide by the rule of law.
“I know there is anger in the loyalist community about the Parades Commission’s determination for the 12 July parade in north Belfast.
“But the reality is that the Commission is the lawfully constituted authority and its determinations have the full force of law.
“So I appeal to everyone involved in this weekend’s parades to respect the rule of law.”
The nationalist Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective (GARC) is to hold a protest on Friday morning as Orangemen and bands pass the Ardoyne shops.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast, said that while he respects everyone’s right to protest, he would urge the leadership of the Orange Order to carefully reflect upon the decisions they make in the coming hours and days.
“There is an opportunity for the Orange Order to step forward and make a decisive contribution to the peace process.
They can by their actions decide whether the Twelfth will be remembered for the Orangefest type event they claim to want or by protests and tensions on the streets.
“I would argue that the vast majority of people would want them to choose the former,” he added.
“Even at this late hour I would call on the Orange Order should show leadership and pull back from increasing tensions in Belfast. The 12th should be celebrated in ways, which are not threatening or triumphalist to their nationalist neighbours.”