Irish Republican News · July 30, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
March decisions provoke nationalist anger

Tension surrounds two sectarian parades tonight after controversial decisions by the Parades Commission on marches in Maghera and north Belfast.

Nationalists have condemned a late u-turn by the body -- whose determinations are understood to have legal effect -- over a band parade involving unionist paramilitaries in Maghera. The reversal came after veiled threats of disruption and worse were made by parade supporters.

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster Assembly member Gereldine Dougan, described today’s decision as “disgraceful”, pointing out that the same paramilitaries have been actively targeting nationalists in the town in recent weeks.

“The decision to reverse the ban on this Loyalist Band parade coming through mainly nationalist areas in Maghera is wrong. There will be the perception that the Parades Commission has caved into to threats of Loyalist violence.

“This flawed u-turn will cause major disruption to the town and result in nationalists being hemmed into their own homes by the PSNI to facilitate this coat trailing exercise.

“It will heighten tensions at a time when nationalists are already angry about the way that the Parades Commission caved in to threats of Loyalist violence on the Springfield Road and how the PSNI overturned a Parades Commission determination to facilitate loyalists in Ardoyne and Lurgan.”

Meanwhile, a contentious band parade is to go ahead in North Belfast without route restrictions.

The paramilitary Whitewell Defenders Flute Band is to march through the sharply divided community tonight.

For the first time, the parade has been allowed along stretches of the Antrim and Serpentine Roads, which will take it past nationalist homes and a Catholic church.

Nationalist and republican politicians said they had been unaware that the band had made an application to parade, and could not therefore lodge their concerns in the usual 30-day consultation period.

North Belfast councillor Danny Lavery said that the decision was helping to create “another contentious parade” when people were trying to resolve the marching issue.

Mr Lavery said the opinions of residents and political representatives had not been sought.

“They (the commission) should notify, at the least, political representatives and residents about any parade that is contentious, loyalist or republican,” he said.

“I think the Parades Comm-ission got the feeling on the ground wrong in this case.”

Serious rioting erupted earlier this month in the nearby Ardoyne area after an anti-Catholic march by the Protestant Orange Order, including a crowd of loyalist supporters and known paramilitaries, was unexpectedly forced through the nationalist enclave.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News