Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP led a party delegation today to meet with the Parades Commission, which adjudicates over contentious marches in the North of Ireland.
The meeting was at Sinn Féin’s request and came in the wake of last week’s highly contentious decision to reverse an earlier ruling and allow a parade by the Proterstant Orange Order to be forced through the nationalist Springfield Road community.
Mr Adams described the sudden u-turn as an act of “moral cowardice”.
“Our view is that the Parades Commission collapsed last week in the face of threats by unionist politicians and unionist paramilitaries,” he said.
“It was an act of moral cowardice which has left a deep sense of hurt among the Springfield Road residents who worked very hard to find a resolution. The reality is that those who didn’t try to find a resolution were rewarded.”
Some supporters of unionist paramilitaries ignored Parades Commission guidelines by displaying paramilitary symbols during the parade.
One band of pipers marched with the crest of the UVF’s junior wing - the Young Citizen Volunteers - on each of its 20 members’ tunics.
The Parades Commission had originally banned loyalists from passing by nationalist Springfield Road homes because of unionist paramilitary banners and symbols displayed at the 2003 parade.
This decision last Friday after a new grouping of local unionist politicians and paramilitaries, called the Parades Forum, guaranteed this year’s march would be different.
Nationalist youths in the area, apparently angered at the u-turn and subsequent parade, were involved in sporadic clashes with the PSNI police last night.
Residents of nationalist areas which have previosuly seen sectarian parades re-routed from their areas have become concerned that the tide may be turning.
Gerard Rice, of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community in South Belfast, said that he is now re-assessing his position working with cross-community networks.
“I don’t want to be caught in the position where the Parades Commission can say that I’ve been talking with loyalists so its then okay to allow a march to go down the Lower Ormeau,” explained Gerard Rice.
“That’s what they did with Springfield Road residents who they used and abused. Local representatives had been working with loyalists to keep the interface quiet, they weren’t talking about parades until last Friday. But the Parades Commission used this to justify giving the Whiterock march the green light. It was a shocking way for the commission to behave and it destroyed its new mature and reasonable image.”