Marching season heats up

The Orange Order has submitted three new applications to the Parades Commission seeking marches through a flashpoint area of west Belfast.

Up to 200 Orangemen comprising three lodges and two bands have applied to parade along the Springfield Road on July 12. Last year only 60 Orangemen and no bands successfully applied to march the route.

Details about the Orange Order’s new Springfield Road plans came to light 24 hours after the Parades Commission announced restrictions on a similar march planned for the area next Saturday.

This Saturday’s march has been the scene for violent clashes in previous years.

However, a ruling Orangemen taking part in the parade will emerge onto the road at the disused Mackies factory, bypassing the most contentious part of the route, has defused tensions in the area.

However, the Orange Order’s July 12 parading applications involve three Shankill-based lodges marching past nationalist homes on the Springfield Road.

Springfield Road residents spokesman Sean Paul O’Hare said that although concerned by the increase in numbers, locals had their attentions firmly fixed on Saturday’s Whiterock parade.

He said: “We can’t really give much thought to the Twelfth parades until we get the weekend over with.

“Although I would expect some sort of protest if the marches do get the go ahead.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Hartley today urged the Parades Commission to stand firm in the face of what he described as “sabre rattling and threats” from the Orange Order, who have insisted on the more controversial parade route.

Last year, the Parades Commission bowed to the threat of unionist paramilitary violence and eventually allowed the parade to pass through the nationalist Springfield Road.

“This situation cannot be allowed to be repeated this year,” said Mr Hartley. “The Parades Commission must stand firm in the face of the threats from the Orange Order, unionist politicians and unionist paramilitary groups. The people of the Springfield Road have a right to live free from sectarian harassment and violence.”

The parading issue looks set to cause major problems throughout the North during the coming weeks.

Last Friday evening saw serious trouble in Ardoyne in north Belfast when the Parades Commission allowed hundreds of loyalists to march through the area.

And in east Belfast, where the Parades Commission has deemed 33 planned Orange parades as “illegal”, the PSNI has been warned that it could find itself in a stand-off situation with 20,000 loyalists if it tries to prevent parades.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News