Northern Ireland

Orange Order parades: Police chief praises 'responsible attitude'

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Media captionNigel Dodds praised the North Belfast Unionist community

Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton has praised the "responsible attitude" of those involved in the 12 July parades.

He said the police's job was made "immensely easier" and that Saturday had "passed off largely successfully".

More than 3,000 police officers were on duty across Northern Ireland.

There were no incidents as the return leg of a feeder parade was stopped from passing a sectarian flashpoint in north Belfast.

It had been barred by the Parades Commission from returning along a stretch of the Crumlin Road that separates unionist and nationalist communities.

Several nights of rioting took place last year after the parade in north Belfast was stopped from returning along the road, with scores of officers injured.

Image caption George Hamilton said the parading season so far had been 'quiet and peaceful'

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Hamilton said: "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.

"I hope that people continue to take responsibility for their own actions and they need to understand that, as I've said throughout the past couple of weeks, the police will do our piece to keep people safe and also to collect evidence where people step outside of the law."

'Unity of purpose'

In north Belfast, unionist politicians and senior Orangemen said they would continue what they have called a "graduated response" to the Parades Commission ruling.

DUP MLA Nigel Dodds said: "The unity of purpose that has been evident over recent days, has been evident on the ground in north Belfast and has been evident in Northern Ireland today, will continue.

Image caption Security barriers were installed by police in north Belfast ahead of the return leg of a feeder parade

"We will redouble our efforts to ensure that the threat of violence does not win the day, that peaceful democratic means are the way forward and we are committed to that."

Mervyn Gibson, Orange Order grand chaplain, said: "Today isn't the end, today is the beginning of this campaign, a furtherance of this campaign, as we move forward to make sure that violence that affects political decisions and affects the Parades Commission isn't rewarded as it has been in the past."

Billy Hutchinson, leader of the PUP, said that the campaign was about "the will of the people".

"There are threats coming from republicans and there are those who try to use republican threats for political gain.

"I say to them now, there will be no gain and there will be no threats, because the will of the people has spoken and this is the will of the unionist people.

"We will move on to the next part (of the response). It will be peaceful and it will be lawful as it was today, so I think we're in a good position."

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