Northern Ireland

Twelfth of July: Ballysillan members left 'isolated' at police barricade

Orange Order
Image caption In the previous three years, the Orange Order arrived in force, with hundreds of members, supporters and bandsmen

Tuesday marked the first time since a stand-off over a disputed Orange Order parade in Belfast started in July 2013, that the three lodges involved have not spoken with one voice.

Two of them did not march to police lines at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade on 12 July, the point at which the Parades Commission said the parade must stop.

In the previous three years, the Orange Order arrived in force, with hundreds of members, supporters and bandsmen.

But, on Tuesday, fewer than 20 members of Ballysillan lodge, and a small number of supporters, arrived at a police barrier erected across the road.

Frustrated

They clearly expected the other lodges to join them, and waited for an hour and a quarter for them to do so.

The assembled media were told repeatedly by Orange, loyalist and police sources that Ligoniel True Blues and the Earl of Erne lodges were on their way.

But they never came.

At 20:30 BST, looking visibly frustrated, members of Ballysillan LOL 1891 walked away from police lines and dispersed.

Image caption The media were told Ligoniel True Blues and the Earl of Erne lodges were on their way

The lodge and the Orange Order have since rejected any suggestion it was deliberately left out on a limb for opposing a deal with a nationalist residents' group in Ardoyne to end the parade dispute.

The proposed deal collapsed earlier this month after Ballysillan made it clear it would not back it, while the others said they would.

Gerald Solinas, a spokesman for Ballysillan, said it was simply because the other lodges would not have made it to the police barrier before the 20:30 BST cut-off point imposed by the parades commission.

The Orange Order has backed this claim and insisted what happened was not the result of a deliberate decision to isolate Ballysillan.

Dispute

But the BBC has established that a deliberate decision was taken to keep the three lodges apart.

There are more than 100 lodges within Belfast County Grand Lodge

Each of them is a member of one of nine districts.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The proposed deal collapsed earlier this month after Ballysillan made it clear it would not back it

Traditionally all lodges within each district walk together.

However, that has not happened in north Belfast since this disputed parade was prevented from completing its return leg past the Ardoyne shop fronts in July 2013.

Since then, the three lodges involved in the dispute have marched together in solidarity, despite being members of different districts.

Ballysillan LOL 1891 is member of District Number Three, Ligoniel True Blues LOL 1932 part of Number One, and the Earl of Erne LOL 647 is a member of District Number Four.

Allowances

In the three previous years the lodges were given special allowances by their governing body, Belfast County Grand Lodge, to walk together close to the head of the Twelfth parade.

That changed this year. Instead, the lodges decided they would parade as part of their own districts, and not together.

Each year one of the districts leads the parade.

This year it was the turn of District Number Three, so Ballysillan helped lead the way.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ballysillan appeared isolated, with little support

The other districts then followed in numerical order, with the Earl of Erne, District Number Four, directly behind them.

Districts five, six, seven, eight and nine then followed, before going back to District Number One, which meant Ligoneil was towards the back of the parade.

The Orange Order claim that the Earl of Erne and Ligoneil decided to disperse early because they ran out of time and could not make the police barriers before the 20:30 BST deadline imposed by the Parades Commission.

That might stand up to scrutiny if both of the other lodges were together at the back of the parade. But they weren't.

Isolated

So how could it be that Ballysillan, which is part of District Number Three, reached the barrier on the Woodvale Road at 19:15 BST, while a lodge in the district immediately behind them could not make it an hour and a quarter later?

An Orange Order source says members of the Earl of Erne lodge decided to wait for Ligoniel True Blues before walking to the police lines. That means they took a conscious decision not to join Ballysillan.

Whatever the Order might say, that decision, and the decision by Belfast County Grand Lodge not to have three north Belfast lodges march together this year, resulted in Ballysillan appearing to be isolated, with little support.

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