A priest of the North Belfast parish of Ardoyne has welcomed moves to end the Twaddell Avenue stand-off that has seen a loyalist protest camp maintained in the community for over two years.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week as he prepared to depart Holy Cross parish, Fr Gary Donegan expressed his joy that his last official act in the parish would be to monitor the loyalist parade on October 1 that will symbolically end the disputed march of 2013 which saw the protest camp set up.
“After that the camp will be dismantled and there will be some ease in the area,” he said, explaining how there will be future parades but that the main issue of a return parade had been settled.
Praising those who had been instrumental in negotiating an end to the Twaddell Avenue stand-off, not least his opposite number, the Methodist clergyman Rev. Harold Good, and Derry businessman Jim Roddy, Fr Donegan said “we have to welcome the work of all those involved in peace and reconciliation”.
The dismantling of the protest camp also serves to remove a flashpoint for violent demonstrations by loyalists over the two and a half years it has existed.
Meanwhile, in ending his ministry in Ardoyne after 15 years, Fr Donegan revealed that he has received numerous messages of support and goodwill, and not just from the Catholic community of the parish.
“A few have been from loyalists I have dealt with in relation to the Twaddell camp and other things.”
On this, and especially on the negotiated solution to the protest camp, Fr Donegan said he had a sense that “people’s mind-sets have moved on, and that too is to be welcomed”.
“People are weary,” he said of the Twaddell Avenue stand-off. “It’s not a perfect solution, but the reality is it is an opportunity. And hopefully people will see that and grasp it.”