Nationalist residents’ groups opposed to unionist parades have described the new Parades Commission as a “sop” to unionists.

The body is heavily biased in favour of members of the Protestant marching orders.

Appointees to the seven-strong body confirmed earlier this week include prominent Armagh Orangeman David Burrows, former Ulster Unionist election candidate Don McKay and District Policing Partnership members Ann Monaghan and Alison Scott-McKinley.

Businesswoman Vilma Patterson will also take up a seat as will Englishman Roger Poole, a former assistant general secretary of Unison, who is chair of the new-look group.

The sole nationalist representative is former SDLP West Belfast MP Joe Hendron, a long time foe of Sinn Féin.

A pro-unionist parades Commission is understood to have been one of the demands issued by Ian Paisley’s DUP in response to recent perceived concessions to nationalists.

The seven Parades Commission appointees will decide whether sectarian marches by militant unionists should pass through areas where they are opposed by nationalist residents.

With no representation on the new body, nationalist residents’ groups are fearful that there could be a sizeable increase in the amount of anti-Catholic parades permitted to go through their areas.

The residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown were particulaly concerned of the possibility of a return to the late ‘90s, when the estate came under siege by Orangemen every summer.

Garvaghy Road residents’ spokesman Brendan MacCionnaith hit out at the absence on the Parades Commission of people from communities affected by these parades.

He said: “The appointments have been politically motivated.

“They are a clear response to pressure from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and will create anger in vulnerable communities like that on the Garvaghy Road.”

Mr MacCionnaith condemned the appointment of two Orangemen to serve on the commission.

“The fact that one of the people is not only a member of the LoL in Portadown, he is also a member of the DUP. It shows that the DUP themselves have obviously secured some influence in this decision...

“What is clear is there is no representation nor has the Northern Ireland Office or secretary of state attempted to secure representation from any of the working-class nationalist communities...that are directly affected by contentious marches.”

A statement by leaders of the main Protestant marching organisations said they noted the new commission make-up “with interest”.

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said the appointments would “bring a completely new dynamic to the Parades Commission”.

  • Eight people were arrested in street disturbances after the annual Lundy's parade in Derry on Saturday. Five were arrested in the centre of Derry and three in Castlederg, County Tyrone, after Proterstant marchers returned home following the Derry parade.

    Normally the Lundy's parade, celebrating a 17th century victory over Catholics, attracts more than 5,000 'Apprentice Boys', but the numbers were down because thousands attended George Best's funeral in Belfast.

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