Priest hails 'step forward' after Ardoyne parade passes off peacefully
A peaceful Orange Order parade past the Ardoyne flashpoint in Northern Ireland is a massive step forward, a community worker has said.
The north Belfast trouble spot had become a byword for conflict over many years on the Twelfth of July, but a deal struck between local residents saw a "relaxed" early morning demonstration replace a tightly restricted evening procession where violence always threatened.
Loyalist bandsmen from nearby Shankill and Ballysillan banged the Lambeg drum on the arterial Crumlin Road, followed by lines of white-shirted men wearing the Order's collarette, while only a handful of nationalist residents looked on.
Fr Gary Donegan, a Catholic priest who has spent years working in Ardoyne, said: "Every step that happens here, no matter how small, it is massive."
There was a heavy police presence, mainly confined to residential side streets off the Crumlin Road. But officers trained for riots never left their vehicles, leaving spectators to the noisy pageantry with which unionists celebrate their culture but which nationalists blamed for so much strife in recent years.
Fr Donegan added: "Every step I would count as a success. There are always going to be issues about parading."