Organisers of a republican commemoration in north Belfast are to seek a High Court challenge over a Parades Commission decision to force it to pass through a maze of back streets and into a dead end.
The event is held every year in honour of Henry Joy McCracken, a local Presbyterian who fought for Ireland as commander of the Republican armies of Ulster, and is buried in Clifton Street cemetery.
Last year there were three days of heavily orchestrated loyalist riots after the same event passed Clifton Street Orange Hall. Loyalist groups, involving 600 members, have again applied to ‘protest’ at this year’s event.
Members of the Henry Joy McCracken band have said the commission has sought to “strangle” their event even though they are willing to speak to representatives of the loyalist community who may have concerns about the parade.
Last week the commission placed restrictions on the parade, due to take place on Sunday, August 25th, from passing through a number of streets en route to the nearby graveyard which is the resting place of the United Irishman.
It falls on the same day as an anti-Catholic Royal Black Institution march in the area, which faces no restrictions other than on the choice of music played. An even larger sectarian march by the Royal Black organisation takes place at the same interface on Saturday, August 31st.
March organiser Sammy Cusick said restrictions placed by the commission were “without reasonable explanation” as there were no official objections lodged with the parades body.
“The determination stated only organisers and Sinn Fein met with the commission. There was no representation from loyalists or from unionist politicians”, Mr Cusick said.
“The term rerouting is in this case a misnomer. The parades commission route in fact sends the march up a series of back streets, across waste ground and into a dead end,” he added.
“It is ridiculous to suggest we take around 500 people and seven bands and negotiate them around back streets, across a patch of waste ground and around bollards.
“To successfully complete part of the suggested route we would have to knock doors and ask residents to move their cars as it is little more than a parking bay at the bottom of a dead end street.
“The central theme of this event is remembering Henry Joy, a Belfast Presbyterian, and has always been anti-sectarian and a celebration of secular radicalism. In no way can our march be portrayed as ‘the other side of the coin’ to openly sectarian marches that are permitted to pass along Clifton Street each year.”
Mr Cusick said the ruling suggested that loyalists rioters were being rewarded by the determination.
“We have lodged a judicial review of the decision and will decide upon a definite plan of action over the coming days,” he said.
“We do, however, remain open to dialogue with any interested parties.”