The Parades Commission ruling regarding the 12th July parade along the Crumlin Road has set the PSNI a challenge to prove their willingness to confront loyalists seemingly intent on responding violently to a Parades Commission determination in the same manner that the PSNI have annually responded to the challenge coming from nationalists responding violently to the consequences of a determination at the Ardoyne interface.
Update: The PSNI ACC Will Kerr has stated this afternoon that they will “robustly uphold” the Parades Commission determination relating to the 4pm deadline.
The PSNI’s unwillingness to face down loyalists in Ballyclare and throughout south-east Antrim last year following a PSNI decision to remove flags erected outside a catholic church is particularly noteworthy. Readers will recall the PSNI’s grovelling apology to rioting loyalists and the subsequent decision to permit loyalists to re-erect flags outside the catholic church then and to turn a blind eye when the loyalists extended their campaign of intimidation to include the catholic church and school in Carrickfergus as well as Ballyclare this year.
With the determination in all certainty likely to be breached by loyalists who’ve made clear they’ve no intention of being prepared to complete the contentious stretch of the unnecessary return route by the time decreed by the Parades Commission, the gauntlet is clearly being thrown down to the PSNI to act in a non-partisan manner by enforcing the letter of the law and blocking the returning loyalists from violating the determination and completing the parade at a time of their choosing.
In all likelihood this will mean the PSNI having to put in place a riot control plan to deal with loyalists as opposed to republicans, something history tells us the PSNI are not particularly comfortable dealing with.
The consequences of the PSNI buckling to the loyalist agenda and pulling a stroke in collaboration with unionist representatives, Orangemen and their loyalist colleagues to facilitate the Order will be keenly felt by Sinn Fein in particular, who will struggle to explain the determination of the PSNI to stand up to republican rioters in Ardoyne year on year whilst shirking away from confrontation with loyalists.
In a real sense, the Orange Order have challenged the PSNI to disprove the authenticity of the dissident republican narrative regarding policing prejudices by facing the loyalists down. We shall soon see if the PSNI are up to the challenge…..