Nationalists have expressed anger that a coat-trailing Orange Order parade is to be allowed to pass Ardoyne in north Belfast on the evening of the Twelfth of July, despite calling off a protest for a morning parade on the same day.
The Twelfth marks the height of the Protestant marching season, which this year has been marked by a conciliatory nationalist approach in Ardoyne and elsewhere.
However, last [Thursday] night the Parades Commission ruled that four Orange lodges and three accompanying bands will be allowed to march along the Crumlin Road on the evening of the Twelfth.
Potentially violent loyalist ‘hangers-on’ are to be bussed through the interface, a condition which is opposed by the marchers.
Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group spokesman Joe Marley expressed deep disappointment that an evening parade had been given the go-ahead.
“We decided not to hold a protest during the morning parade as a confidence-building measure to show that we are serious about solving the issue of contentious parades,” he said.
“However, we have serious concerns that another of these contentious evening parades has been allowed to proceed past nationalist houses on the Crumlin Road. We note that supporters will not be allowed to parade all the route and must be bussed up earlier.
“The PSNI must not be allowed to overrule this ban, as they have done in previous years, which has led to serious scenes of violence.”
North and West Belfast Parades Forum spokesman Tommy Cheevers said any attempt to bus march supporters through the flashpoint area was “madness”.
“Who is going to put these supporters on the buses and what is going to happen to the parade if they refuse to get on?” he said.
“What legislation is the Parades Commission using to say that these supporters have to go through on buses?”
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly criticised the determination, saying it would force an anti-Catholic parade through a nationalist area twice in one day.
“There is no logic behind an organisation wishing to march through areas where the community who live there do not welcome them,” he said.
“It is the wrong decision and many will feel that it has come about as a direct result of the threat of unionist paramilitary violence.”
ORDER WELCOMES UVF?
* Two convicted unionist paramilitaries may be allowed to stay in the Orange Order, England’s most senior Orangeman has said.
Liverpool men Roy Barwise and John Irwin were sentenced to four and a half years and two and a half years respectively this week on charges of UVF membership and possession of weapons.
The two men were arrested last year after a UVF arms haul was found at the home of Liverpool Orangeman Alan Clair in 2004.
Clair was later jailed for eight years for UVF membership and possession of weapons.
Despite yesterday’s convictions, the Grand Master of the Orange Order in England, Ron Bather, said the men might not be expelled from the order because membership of a paramilitary organisation may not break the laws of the Order, which works to defeat Catholicism.
Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan said questions now needed to be asked about the Northern Ireland Office’s decision to give #100,000 funding to the Orange Order last week.
“In the past month alone in court cases in both Scotland and England convicted unionist paramilitaries from both the UDA and UVF have been linked to the Orange Order,” he said.
“I am calling on David Hanson, the British direct-rule minister who decided to hand over #100,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Orange Order, to comment on these latest cases.
“Is he in any position to guarantee that this money will not end up in the hands of unionist paramilitaries, who without doubt are prevalent within the order?
“Silence from the minister on this matter is not an option.”