Order sulks over rerouted parade
Order sulks over rerouted parade

Short-term relief mixed with concern for the future in Belfast this weekend as a controversial parade by the Protestant Orange Order was called off amid increasing tension over the march route.

Organisers decided to call off the parade rather than accept a re-routing away from Catholic homes on the Springfield Road by the Parades Commission.

However, there are some fears that the postponed parade will now be rescheduled for early September.

The Orangemen and unionist hardliners had sought to pressure the Parades Commission into reversing its decision, with suggestions that violence would be the inevitable consequence.

Last year, at the eleventh hour, the commission reversed its original decision and allowed Orangemen to walk part of the route.

In a joint statement, local DUP politicians Nigel Dodds, Diane Dodds and Nelson McCausland were outraged at the failure to secure a similar u-turn this year.

They said they are seeking a meeting with the British government to discuss the “parades crisis”.

“Our purpose will be to lay out the severe strains that have been placed on our people by the disgraceful attacks on legal and peaceful parades and the bizarre and disgraceful actions of the Parades Commission.”

They said they would be seeking assurances over the Whiterock parade and also parades on July 12th, the height of Protestant celebrations of ancient battle victories oover Catholics.

“The Orange Order are still allowed to march along the Springfield Road, but rejected the offer because they can’t go past a Catholic estate,” said Springfield Road residents spokesman Sean Murray.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, speaking in Cork, expressed concern at the continuing refusing of the Orange Order to adhere to the determination of the Parades Commission.

“More than 3000 Loyal Order parades will take place this year in the Six counties,” said Mr Adams.

“Only a small number are deemed contentious. Others are welcomed by unionist communities and many are simply tolerated by nationalists.

“The most effective way in which contentious parades can be resolved is through a meaningful and direct engagement between the Loyal orders and the nationalist communities which they are seeking to march through.

“The Orange Order must realise however that it is not simply a case of entering into dialogue and being rewarded by a parade. The Orange Order must accept any discussions have to be open to resolutions, which may involve compromises.

“In this context the decision of the Parades Commission to re-route today’s Whiterock parade is the correct one. However the Orange Order have in recent days embarked upon a dangerous strategy of heightening tensions and threatening violence. This atmosphere has not been helped by the decision of the British Secretary of State Peter Hain to intern Sean Kelly.

“Republicans and particularly republican ex-prisoners have provided a leadership role in these types of situations in the past. Many are now questioning whether they should provide this role in the future given the experience of Sean Kelly’s arrest.

“However Republicans want to see a peaceful summer, the Sinn Féin leadership want to see a peaceful summer and we will continue to do all in our power to allow communities to live peacefully free from sectarian harassment and violence. But others including the Orange Order, the Parades Commission and the British government have a major role to play also.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News