Call for legislation reform ahead of parade

A north Belfast interface is tense ahead of a contentious march this weekend.

On Saturday, 28 unionist bands and up to 1,000 supporters will take part in a four-hour parade in the nationalist Whitewell area of north Belfast.

However, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that nationalist residents did not intend mounting any protest at Saturday’s parade.

“We want this thing to pass off peacefully and for residents to suffer as little inconvenience as possible,” he said.

“There are considerable tensions in the area and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that people remain calm.”

Meanwhile, PSNI Chief constable Hugh Orde has called for a review of parades legislation to include supporters of sectarian marches.

Mr Orde told the Policing Board yesterday that the law in relation to parade followers needed clarifying before the next marching season.

“Currently it seems to me, and I am not a lawyer, that the law excludes followers from the determination, thus limiting what the (Parades) Commission can do,” he said.

“We are not comfortable with any situation that can lead to misunderstanding and ambiguity.”

The PSNI forced supporters of an Orange Order parade through the republican Ardoyne area of north Belfast on July 12, claiming to have no power over those who walked the route behind the main parade.

Despite complaints being made to the Police Ombudsman about the policing of parades in north Belfast and Lurgan this summer, Mr Orde added: “I don’t accept there has been a substantial loss of confidence in policing.”

Mr Kelly called for an urgent review of the legislation.

He accused the PSNI of exploiting ambiguities surrounding the issue, and called for Parades Commission legislation to be made clear and unambiguous.

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