Parades routed through flashpoint areas
Parades routed through flashpoint areas

The Protestant Apprentice Boys organisation has been given a green light to hold sectarian marches through two combustible ‘interface’ areas on Easter Monday.

The decisions were announced by the Parades Commission, the body tasked with adjudicating on the routes of contentious parades.

In the first decisions on controversial parades of this year’s marching season, the Commission ruled that the Apprentice Boys are to be allowed to march past Ardoyne in north Belfast and the Short Strand in east Belfast.

An Apprentice Boys application to parade through the lower Ormeau Road in south Belfast has been rejected. However it is the Apprentice Boys parade past Ardoyne on Easter Monday which is likely to cause the biggest controversy.

Up to 50 Apprentice Boys from the Ligoniel Walkers Club and an accompanying band will parade past Ardoyne at 9.30am on April 17.

In recent years there has been serious violence following a series of coat-trailing anti-Catholic parades through the area.

On July 12 last year hardline republicans were blamed for blast bomb attacks on police following an Orange Order parade.

In east Belfast nationalists have been critical of sectarian tunes being played during Protestant parades past St Matthew’s Catholic Church in the Short Strand.

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly criticised the decision to allow the Ardoyne parade to go ahead without restrictions.

“The new Parades Commission said that it would penalise anyone who refused to engage in dialogue but here we have the Apprentice Boys being rewarded with a march without any effort to talk to residents,” he said.

“Nationalist residents called-off a planned protest last year as a compromise gesture but Apprentice Boys are still refusing to talk.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News