Ballymena march forced through
Ballymena march forced through

There were minor clashes betweeen nationalist protestors and the PSNI police when a sectarian parade was forced though a Catholic area of Ballymena on Saturday.

Republicans gathered as a local loyalist flute band in the County Antrim town held a march on Saturday.

Police manhandled protestors off the road and used jeeps to block both the Cushendall Road and Broughshane Road beside All Saints Catholic Church for a time. The area has become increasingly nationalist in recent years, and tension has been brewing with nationalists insisting loyalist band parades should not go along the routes.

Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have called for a parallel route which opened in recent years - the Parkway dual-carriageway - to be used for parades.

Sinn Féin’s North Antrim assembly member Philip McGuigan said: “This was a disgrace from start to finish. It is quite evident the police have not changed as they forced through a sectarian parade and lashed out at nationalists.”


Meanwhile, the Protestant Orange Order has rejected an offer of face-to-face talks with the Parades Commission ahead of this year’s marching season.

Commission chief Anthony Holland wrote to grand master of the Orange Order, Robert Saulters, earlier this week asking for a face-to-face sit-down meeting to discuss issues surrounding parades.

Parades Commission chiefs are anxious to open up a formal line of communication ahead of a what many observers fear will be a long, hot summer on the marching front.

Plans by the Orange Order to hold a massive July 12 demonstration in Derry city are already causing concern.

Although details have yet to be finalised, it is understood Orangemen in the city are keen to bring the County Derry demonstration to the overwhelmingly nationalist city for the first time in 13 years.


However, political groups representing the unionist paramilitary UVF and the republican paramilitary INLA in Derry have reportedly come to an agreement to help reduce tensions ahead of this summer’s Protestant marching season.

The Derry spokesman of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party Leslie Mitchell said that the first meeting with the Irish Republican Socialist Party had been constructive, with more discussions set to follow.

And he also called on a shadowy loyalist group calling itself the Loyalist Action Force to disband.

The IRSP also confirmed they would now use their influence to help quell violence at flashpoint interface areas of the city.

The meeting between the two groups was called after loyalists in Derry’s Waterside claimed they were under surveillance from the INLA in the city.

Confirming this, a spokesman for the IRSP said: “We were approached for a meeting and met at a neutral venue last week.

“The meeting was cordial and constructive enough.

“We discussed certain issues with them, and told them there was no members of the INLA involved in watching them.

“We also talked about the IRSP using its influence with young people in certain areas to tackle any upsurge in stonings.”

The IRSP said that while “nothing concrete” had been sorted out it was quite possible the two groups would meet again.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2005 Irish Republican News