Unionist figures seen behind parade trouble
With unionist politicians and loyalist figures expressing defiance despite last weekend’s trouble at the intersection of Carrick Hill and Donegall Road, fears are growing that a giant loyalist parade planned for the end of September could lead to further conflict.
More than 20,000 participants from the Orange Order, Apprentice Boys and Royal Black Preceptory, along with 100 bands and several thousand supporters, will take part in the march on September 29 to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, a unionist pact to oppose Irish independence.
Members of the Parade Commissioners have already met residents of Carrick Hill to hear their concerns about another contentious parade in the area.
SDLP assembly member for North Belfast Alban Maginness said the behaviour of bandsmen and their supporters on Saturday was “grotesquely triumphalist” and among the worst he had seen in years. He called on DUP Minister Neslon McCausland to condemn those who defied the Parades Commission.
Mr McCausland was among the signatories of an open letter to British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson, on the morning of the parade, warning there might be trouble and calling for theParades Commission to be scrapped.
He was also among a number of unionist politicians who were among the supporters during the march past the church.
“The onus is on him as a Stormont minister, a representative for North Belfast and a senior member of the DUP,” Mr Maginness said.
But the hardline DUP figure rejected this. “After a summer of bizarre decisions by the [parades] commission, there was an anger within the unionist community and this was almost inevitable”, he said.
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said the DUP’s failure to condemn those involved showed “a lack of political leadership”.
“The problem for [DUP Ministers] Nigel Dodds and Nelson McCausland is clear -- the cameras in Donegall Street on Saturday showed exactly what happened,” he said.
“They showed hundreds of incidents of law-breaking. They showed unionist politicians being part of that parade.
“They showed unionist politicians instead of showing leadership, aligning themselves with base sectarian and blatantly illegal behaviour.”
Mr Maskey said there must be a “robust PSNI investigation” into breaches of the commission’s determination.
Local Sinn Féin Assembly member Caral Ni Chuilin went further, calling on the unionist politicians who were present to identify the hundreds of loyalists who broke the law on Saturday.
“All unionist politicians present at Saturday’s parade, particularly those that are members of the loyal orders, should make a clear statement of their intent to cooperate with the PSNI investigation into those that broke the law outside St Patrick’s Church,” she said.
The North’c culture minister expressed anger that people who are “not dissidents” had been targeted by the loyalists, and said a solution needed to be found.
“Every person on that protest was a resident, they were mass-goers. They were grannies and mothers -- not dissidents,” she said. “The loyal orders need to talk to residents and need to show mutual respect.”
Carrick Hill residents’ spokesman Frank Dempsey said they had been assured on Saturday morning “that the Young Conway Volunteers would be rerouted and not allowed to pass the church and yet they did without any attempt made to divert them.
“What is the point of placing restrictions and determination on parades if they are ignored and then not enforced?
“The residents of Carrick Hill have been treated very badly.
“With the plans for the large-scale loyalist march in September, people are understandably concerned.”