Commission defends parades decision after night of rioting in North
THE chairman of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission has defended the decision to allow to rival parades to go ahead within two hours of each other in North Belfast after a night of rioting.
More than 20 police officers were injured during the trouble which flared last night after a group of Orangemen marched past the nationalist Ardoyne district. None of the injuries are thought to be serious.
Petrol bombs and bricks were thrown and up to 10 shots fired. Police used water cannon in a bid to disperse the crowds of republicans and at one stage six baton rounds were fired. Six people were arrested.
Politicians on all sides, including Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, had criticised Parades Commission decisions which meant the Orangemen having to return early from the main Twelfth of July rally in the city - and allowing a parade by local residents to go ahead in the same place two hours later. Dissident republicans, many of them from outside the area, were among the crowds.
The Commission was established to adjudicate on contentious marches, and even though there has been major trouble at this particular Catholic/Protestant flashpoint every year for over a decade, the chairman Peter Osborne said given the circumstances, the rulings were correct.
He also hit out at people whom he claimed stood on the sidelines criticising their work. The language and comments in the days leading up to the parades had heightened tensions and were not helpful.
Mr Osborne told BBC Radio Ulster: "It is complete and utter nonsense to blame the Parades Commission for the violence last night. There has been violence in this location for many, many years now."
He added: "It is time for politicians to take ownership of contentious parades... that's the way forward."
There was minor trouble in Derry when nationalist youths attacked police with petrol bombs, but all the other Orange Order demonstrations across Northern Ireland yesterday passed off without any major incidents.