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N.Ireland Protestant march restricted

Cars burn during Nationalist rioting in the Ardoyne area of Belfast on July 12, 2010. Protestant marchers in Northern Ireland will not be allowed to pass through the Catholic Ardoyne district following serious rioting in recent years, The Parades Commission ruled.AFP/File

Protestant marchers in Northern Ireland will not be allowed to pass through the Catholic Ardoyne district of Belfast following serious rioting in recent years, The Parades Commission ruled.

The Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it was "illogical" that Orange Order marchers would not be able to return on a stretch of the Crumlin Road following the July 12 parade.

North Belfast lawmaker Nigel Dodds said the marchers had been put in an "impossible position".

"They are being denied the right to return home peacefully and with dignity along the main road they have traversed for decades, with priority instead given to dissident republicans who last year attacked the Protestant community at Twaddell Avenue," he said.

"By this determination the commission has chosen to reward intolerance."

But Catholic Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly praised the ruling as "a sensible one."

"The dialogue that began just a few days ago to find a resolution to the situation should recommence," he said.

Violence flared last year following rival marches by Protestants, who want Northern Ireland to remain in Britain, and Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland.

The worst scenes came when rival youths traded insults and missiles across police lines after Orange Order men passed through the Ardoyne.

The July 12 parade is the culmination of the Orange Order's marching season, and is usually accompanied by violence. The day is a public holiday in Northern Ireland.

The march marks the Protestant King William III's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 over the deposed Catholic king James II.

The marchers like to stick to traditional routes but there are often clashes as they sometimes pass through what have now become Catholic areas. There has been annual trouble at the Ardoyne flashpoint for more than a decade.

Around 3,500 people died in the three decades of sectarian violence between Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants that largely ended with a 1998 peace agreement, though sporadic unrest and bomb threats continue.