EXCLUSIVE: A LOYALIST protest in Ardoyne could last up to at least five days, police fear.
Orangemen and bandsmen return to north Belfast on Friday evening but their path home will be blocked by the PSNI.
It follows a ruling by the Parades Commission that marchers could return by the same route they took earlier in the morning.
There is a massive security presence in Ardoyne on Friday evening ahead of the returning marchers.
It is understood police are concerned about “four pressure points” in the city – Ormeau Embankment, south Belfast; Donegall Street, city centre; Short Strand, east Belfast; and Ardoyne/Woodvale, north Belfast.
Police are receiving intelligence of protests in these areas.
There is a large police presence in Donegall Street with around ten landrovers in the vicinity of St Patrick’s Church.
Orangemen plan to hold a protest at the scene and their numbers are expected to be swollen by supporters from across the city.
Security sources told Belfast Daily that the protest could last up to the evening when Cliftonville FC host Celtic at Solitude in the Champions League qualifying round.
“Our intelligence says that the protestors are preparing for the long haul,” said a security source.
“They have been told this could run for up to five days or more.
“Which then brings us to the football at Cliftonville FC. It will be a policing headache trying to keep everyone safe going in and out of the ground.”
Police are preparing for possible trouble in east Belfast on Friday evening when the No6 district parade returns.
The area around Short Strand, Cluan Place and Castlereagh Street has been turned into a battleground in previous years.
Mobile screens, bought for the G8 summit, were being erected on Friday evening close to the bottom of the Newtownards Road.
Belfast Daily revealed on Thursday that hundreds of loyalists and Orangemen from across Belfast may gather in north Belfast on the Twelfth evening in support of banned local lodges and bandsmen.
A decision to hold a Drumcree-style stand-off protest in north Belfast was agreed at a meeting in Clifton Street Orange Hall on Wednesday evening.
It followed a decision by the Parades Commission to ban Ligoniel Orangemen and bandsmen walking up past the Ardoyne shops on the Twelfth evening.
Those present included community groups, the Orange Order, politicians, members of the UVF and UDA along with political representatives in the PUP and UPRG.
A source told Belfast Daily: “Bascially, it was agreed that there will be a stand off at the top of the Crumlin Road at Woodvale.
“It was made clear to those present that this was to be a peaceful protest and it will go on as long as it takes.
“They also discussed the policing operation. They realise the police will have problems with officers dressed all day in riot gear and helmets. They will be wilting under the heat.
“People in east Belfast have already expressed their support. Other areas are expected to follow.
“There will be protests across the province or else people will come to north Belfast and stand with the Ligoniel lodges and bandsmen until they are allowed to walk the way they came.
“If that doesn’t happen, then the police are in for the long haul. Matt Baggott should have got 6,300 extra police not 630.
“He is going to need every last one of them because this protest is going to go on and on.”
As Belfast Daily first revealed this week, the PSNI has already called in 630 UK officers to act in support of the PSNI during the marching season.
Belfast Daily revealed last month that the bandsmen and Orange Order members planned to defy the Parades Commission if it banned their homeward parade and push through with a parade.
“That is still the case. There was a lot of anger expressed at the meeting in Clifton Street Hall on Wednesday night.
- “A lot of people felt let down by these talks that didn’t deliver anything at all.”
On Thursday lunchtime, the Orange Order confirmed it is to stage a series of protests over the Parades Commission ruling on the Ardoyne return parade.
The Orange Order, which has accused the Parades Commission of creating crisis, says that it is “their earnest intention” that the demonstrations will be peaceful.
“What we’ve said today is that the Twelfth parade will not be over till all the brethren, bandsmen and supporters are home,” said Orange Order chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson.
The details were given at a media conference on Thursday morning, which had been called by the Order to mark Orangefest.
On their evening return parade, Orangemen and bandsmen will be stopped at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade.
“Three Lodges have been banned from going along the Crumlin Road. We’re saying that, until they get home, the rest of the Twelfth day isn’t over for everyone else.
“There will be further protests,” Rev Gibson said.
“We’re not going into detail of what those are. But certainly, anything that takes place, we want it to be peaceful.
“It’s not inevitable that there’ll be violence and we’ve protested before where there’s been no violence and we hope that’s the case again.”