Irish Republican News · May 2, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: PARADE TENSIONS SPILL OVER
PARADE TENSIONS SPILL OVER

Missiles were thrown when rival nationalist and unionist groups clashed on Sunday morning following a sectarian parade by the Protestant Orange Order in east Belfast.

Three PSNI vehicles were damaged during the trouble in the Newtownards Road and Albert Bridge Road interface with the nationalist Short Strand area.

The nationalist enclave of the Short Strand has been the site of sectarian conflict in previous years during the Protestant marching seasons.

Thousands of marches are held every summer by the Orange Order and other groups to celebrate centuries-old Protestant battle victories.

A similar march in Dunmurry last weekend was described as “a coat trailing exercise” by Sinn Féin.

A total of 30 ‘kick-the-pope’ bands march in the village for two and a half hours. On the outskirts of Belfast, Dunmurry was once a unionist-dominated area but there is now an increasing nationalist community.

Despite this, the Parades Commission did not place any restrictions on the march.

“I think in this new political dispensation what nationalists in this area want is to see some sort of accommodation,” Mr Butler said.

“They want to see their rights respected and up to now the people who organise these parades don’t want to engage with nationalists. They just trample over peoples’ rights and it is a coat trailing exercise.”

PARADE REPORT DISMISSED

New proposals on parades which were launched this week have been dismissed by nationalist residents’ groups.

An interim report by the Strategic Review of Parading Body (SRPB), under Paddy Ashdown, recommends the transfer of powers to deal with contentious marches away from the Parades Commission to a new secretariat under the control of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, or to local councils.

The former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers said the recommendation to eventually scrap the Parades Commission as a concession to unionists was “as disturbing as it is daft”.

Portadown’s Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community in south Belfast have also strongly criticised the SRPB report’s findings.

Warning that the SRPB recommendations would undo the independence of the Parades Commission, the residents’ group spokesmen say: “Since the start of this millennium, the re-routing of sectarian marches away from the Garvaghy and Ormeau roads by the commission has meant that our communities -- and the wider community -- have enjoyed successive peaceful summers.

“The clouds of fear, tension and violence, and the physical sieges of our two communities that accompanied those sectarian marches, have also disappeared.

“Residents in our neighbourhoods now enjoy family and community life in relative peace and tranquility.”

Branding the SRPB report as “unnecessary and largely unhelpful” and claiming that it would “politicise” the marching issue, the residents’ spokesmen say: “The review body itself has linked the marching issue to outstanding and unresolved political matters.

“It links the marching issue to locally elected political institutions, including local councils - a number of which have proven track records of discrimination.

“By making these linkages, the review body has opened a doorway for those who wish to turn the marching issue into a major political football -- where political expediency will take precedence over valid human rights concerns.”

Claiming that the SRPB recommendations failed to provide any viable alternative to an independent Parades Commission, they say: “Instead, we see only potential for political interference and manipulation within each of the various strands of bureaucracy it proposes.

“We fear that the majority of proposals will lead to a pre-1998 situation, reignite past tensions and create future inter-communal unrest during the “marching season”.

© 2008 Irish Republican News