Peaceful Twelfth raises hopes parades row can be resolved
THE most peaceful Twelfth in years has lifted hopes that the deadlock over parades can finally be broken.
Unionist politicians and the Orange Order have been praised after Saturday's demonstrations passed without serious incident.
However, the wider issue of contentious marches has still to be resolved.
In recent years, Ardoyne had been the focal point for the parades dispute.
A major security operation was in place this year, with more than 40 armoured police vehicles, two water cannons and 1,000 officers deployed.
Bands played music, supporters cheered and demonstrators carried a large banner as Orangemen were halted a short distance from the contested stretch of road. The crowd later dispersed without incident.
There was no repeat of the violence of last year, which saw dozens of police officers injured.
Orangemen staged a peaceful protest at the Ardoyne interface, where Ligoniel lodges were prevented from returning along a stretch of the Crumlin Road that separates unionist and nationalist communities.
Peter Sheridan from the peace-building charity Cooperation Ireland said he believed agreement on the contentious issue of marches and parades was likely after a quiet Twelfth.
"It has created breathing space and a climate where progress can hopefully be made," he said.
"There is an atmosphere, at least in the short term, where progress is possible if there is a willingness on both sides to make that happen.
"The recriminations which would have happened had violence occurred wouldn't have allowed for that atmosphere."
Mr Sheridan, a former PSNI assistant chief constable, said he believed a deal could be done.
"It requires people to be willing to compromise on all sides, but a deal can be found," he added.
There have been calls for the Orange Order to capitalise and enter talks to try and reach agreement on the issue.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "There is a need to strike while the iron is hot and put it up to the people who are the road block to parades.
"Far, far too often Sinn Fein have been let off the hook because they haven't been put to the test.
"Now is the time to say 'if we talk the talk can we walk the walk'."
He added it was now clear that "just because there is a contentious parade you do not inevitably end up with a pile of violence or a long legacy of even more intractable problems".
North Belfast SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said it was imperative that dialogue over parades resumed as soon as possible.
"North Belfast does not need to tear itself apart every year, residents do not need to be left to pick up the pieces following nights of disorder, and the police do not need to sustain scores of injuries keeping a fragile peace," he said.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, overseeing his first major event since taking office, acknowledged the "responsible leadership" shown by unionists.
"We have had a quiet and peaceful parading season up to and including today and I hope that this continues for the rest of the summer," he said.
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers praised the Orange Order and unionist leaders for the intensive work they had done to ensure a peaceful Twelfth.