Irish Republican News · August 8, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Parades decision may avert crisis
Parades decision may avert crisis

The North’s Parades Commission has this afternoon decided not to allow an anti-Catholic march by the Apprentice Boys’ organisation past the nationalist Ardyone area of north Belfast.

The Ardoyne parade is a feeder parade for the main Apprentice Boys’ march in Derry in which 10,000 people are expected to take part.

Even though the parade has passed off peacefully in recent years, there had been clear predictions of a repeat of last month’s riot. On July 12, a parade by the Protestat Orange Order, supported by hundreds of hardline loyalists including some paramilitaries, was forced through the area. Young nationalists, angered by the failure to implement a ruling against the coat-trailing parade, clashed with British Crown forces. Sinn Féin politicians worked to quell the protests, with only limited success.

There were justifiable fears this week of a violent rematch between angry residents on the one hand, and loyalists and British forces on the other. In particular, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly faced a difficult choice after being strongly criticised by republican hardliners for physically defending British paratroopers engaged in the July 12 operation.

Mr Kelly today said that the Parades Commission determination banning the parade was “the only sensible decision that could have been reached”.

Last month, unionist paramilitaries blockaded roads and the Orange Order successfully threatened unspecified disruption if their parade was not allowed through the nationalist enclave. Mr Kelly today warned that the determination must not be over-turned by the actions of the PSNI or the British government’s Northern Ireland Office.

“It would have been wrong of the Parades Commission to add insult to injury by allowing the Apprentice Boys to come down this road. This was the only sensible decision to make. There should be no acquiescence to threats of violence from the Orange Order or Unionist paramilitaries.

“It is important that there is no repeat of the secret deals done between the PSNI and the NIO. Given recent u-turns Sinn Féin will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Nigel Dodds of Ian Paisley’s DUP condemned the decision, which he claimed was due to threats from Sinn Féin and residents groups. A protest during the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry was being considered by the local Bogside residents’ group if the Ardoyne parade was give the go-ahead.

“The Commission have once again demonstrated how out of touch they are,” Mr Dodds said. “They are obviously unfit to make determinations on parades and should be disbanded immediately..

“It is absolutely deplorable that the Parades Commission have decided to stop a parade which has never caused any trouble simply because of the threat of violence from people who cannot tolerate the peaceable expression of unionist culture”.

CLASHES ‘NOT POLITICAL’

There were clashes in Derry last night involving local youths and the PSNI police, and some petrol bombs were thrown.

No one was injured, but one man was arrested during the disturbances around the small loyalist Fountain enclave.

The trouble comes amid heightening tension in the city over the main annual march of the Apprentice Boys in Derry on August 14. However, Sinn Féin denied that the clashes were related to the march.

A party spokesman said: “An atmosphere is being created and young people sometimes react in the wrong manner.

“But calling them nationalist youths or unionist youths tends to elevate it into something it isn’t. It’s not political.”

* The Apprentice Boys have also sought to march through the nationalist William Street area of Lurgan before boarding buses to travel to Derry for the main march. Local Sinn Féin representatives John O’Dowd and Dara O’Hagan met with the Parades Commission this week to discuss the issue.

Mr O’Dowd said that “given the level of anger amongst nationalists in the town following the antics of the PSNI and the RBP in parading through the nationalist end of the town on July 13th in defiance of the Parades Commission, there is no way that a coat trailing exercise down William Street will be accepted next Saturday.”

© 2004 Irish Republican News