Quiet start to marching season
The first of this year’s parades by the Protestant marching orders have passed off without incident.
Nationalist protested a number of the routes taken in the Easter Monday marches by the Apprentice Boys organisation.
There were five contentious parades, three in Belfast and one each in Maghera, County Derry, and Castlederg, County Tyrone.
At Ardoyne in north Belfast, the scene of serious rioting last summer on July 12th, the Ligoniel Walkers passed another protest of about 100 residents. Parades Commission chairman Roger Poole was on hand to witness events.
Protests were also held in the Short Strand area of east Belfast, and on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast.
Meanwhile, unionists accused of involvement in some of the worst march-related violence of recent years have escaped prosecution because of a so-called “bureaucratic blunder”.
The 13 cases, relating to disturbances at an Orange Order parade on the Whiterock Road in west Belfast last September, were dropped after prosecutors failed to obtain an extension to allow police time to bring people before the courts.
The disturbances were some of the worst witnessed in Belfast in many years, with gun and bomb attack from both the UVF and UDA. It is thought that up to 200 may have escaped prosecution due to the “bungle”.
In October 2003 charges were recommended against a senior west Belfast Orangeman after paramilitary flags were carried during the parade. However, that case collapsed for similar reasons.
The news comes just days after 23 nationalists appeared in court charged with rioting in Ardoyne in north Belfast last July 12.
Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly said nationalists would view the failure to prosecute with scepticism.
“They will contrast it with the number of nationalists appearing in court in connection with what happened in Ardoyne last July,” he said.
“This is the second time that loyalists involved in the Whiterock parade have escaped prosecution.
“There appears to be one law for nationalists and another for loyalists.”