Twaddell protest deal may not happen after all

The loyalist camp at Twaddell
The loyalist camp at Twaddell
The Twaddell camp has been in place since 2013
The Twaddell camp has been in place since 2013

A resolution to the Twaddell Avenue protest in North Belfast looks like it has been torpedoed.

On Sunday, this newspaper reported how a deal had been hammered through to see the three Ligoniel Orange Lodges walk home past the 'Ardoyne Shops' area after a three year sit-in protest.

So far the protest has cost almost £20m to police and has seen some of the worst scenes of violence in Northern Ireland in recent years..

The parade was initially prevented from walking home after a parade to Ligoniel on July 12, 2013.

Since then, the Twaddell protest camp was formed, and there has been continued stalemate between the Orange Lodges involved, the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) and the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC).

Last week however, a secret deal between the UVF, the Orange Order and the residents groups, which was brokered by UVF Commander Winston 'Winkie' Irvine, was set to go ahead that would settle the dispute once and for all.

The deal was to see the three lodges involved walk past the 'Ardoyne Shops' interface area this Friday, with a pledge that there would be no further 'return' parades.

The deal was due to be announced at a press conference on Monday, but the event was cancelled.

At a meeting of CARA on Monday night, the deal was discussed, with some members reportedly against it.

The GARC have said that the group is against the deal.

The Sunday World understands, as part of the deal, the Orange Order would also ditch their annual Whiterock parade, which passed off this year without incident.

The parade on Friday was to be renamed the 'Somme Parade' in keeping with recent remembrance events.

Sources told the Sunday World that Irvine's lead role in negotiations would see him take over from UVF leader John 'Bunter' Graham.

Graham has been the leader of the UVF for more than 40 years, but has recently been suffering ill health and is expected to 'retire'.

Winston Irvine is said to be using the dispute as a means to line himself up to become Graham's successor.

However, members of Irvine's UVF B Company don't have faith in their 'commander', branding him a 'chocolate soldier'.

One source said:  "His [Irvine's] own men in B Company hate him, he’s a chocolate soldier – there’s no way he will ever be accepted as a loyalist leader.”