Orangefest 2012 sees Violent Clashes in Ardoyne

Photograph courtesy of Tyler McNally


Celebrations of the Twelfth of July this year in Belfast had a carnival like tone, with 'Orangefest' hosted in Belfast city centre attracting huge crowds of families who lined the parade route. In Donegall Square the festivities continued with numerous food stalls providing dishes from around the world. The parade, which started at the Orange Hall, proceeded past City Hall, down to Queen's University, and continued on down the Malone Road to Barnett Demesne Park; where the positive atmosphere continued with a number of stalls from local businesses displayed their wares.

Emma, 20, a QUB student who attended the event with her grandparents and 4-year-old cousin said:

“It was such a lovely atmosphere in the park and the end of the march there. The Twelfth has a bad reputation for violence, but

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today with all the families and the food stalls it's been proved wrong. It's about celebrating history and culture, not about who can shout the loudest. I hope next year’s Orangefest is even better.”

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However, the positive atmosphere felt in the city centre was disrupted by trouble in Ardoyne, where riots took place after a small number of Orangemen paraded through the area in silence as a 'token gesture'. This took place within hours of a nationalist march through the area, as well as nationalist protests in relation to the Orange march.

Despite 20 PSNI officers being injured in the riots and live rounds being fired at members of the police force, the Parades Commission defended their decision to allow the march through Ardoyne. They had ruled that the parade must be moved back to 4pm, but this did not seem to alleviate the tension between the two communities. The decision remains a controversial one, considering the large number of police officers who were injured on 11th July 2011 in the area during nationalist protests to the march being allowed to pass through the neighbourhood.

The contrast between the various celebrations taking place on the Twelfth showed that the steps made towards making the Twelfth an inclusive and family friendly event have been successful, with a positive and upbeat mood in the city centre. However, the controversy surrounding the parades marching through nationalist areas remains a serious issue, which needs to be addressed in order to prevent any further violence during future celebrations of the Twelfth.