Summer marches end without violence

The summer marching season ended last weekend without serious trouble during the annual ‘Last Saturday’ marches by the ‘Blackmen’ of the Protestant Royal Black Order.

In west Tyrone, nationalists were angered when they the local unionist representative made obscene gestures to nationalists during the Royal Black Preceptory parade in Castlederg.

Local residents from nationalist areas at one end of the town were protesting a decision by the Parades Commission decision to allow four sectarian parades through the area on Saturday.

And in contravention of the Parades Commission determination, the Castlederg Young Loyalist Flute Band stopped and loudly played ‘The Sash’ at the entrance to the nationalist Priest’s Lane.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Derek Hussey then seemed to give “the middle finger” to nationalists and directed a stream of obscene language towards protestors.

Castlederg Sinn Féin councillor Charlie McHugh described the incident as “sectarian coat-trailing at its worst” and accused Hussey of being “at the heart of attempts to provoke a response from nationalist protesters”.

“Not only did Derek Hussey stand beside the band while they put on this provocative display but he then went on to shout obscenities and made obscene gestures.

“We also had hangers-on coming through the Priest’s Lane once again in contravention of the Parades Commission determination and a Young Citizens’ Volunteer banner - junior wing of the UVF - being carried.”

A number of other contentious parades, including in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone and east Belfast, passed off without trouble, although the east Belfast procession broke a Parades’ Commission determination by playing music as it passed St Matthew’s Church at Short Strand.

Several bands played hymns as they went past the church with one playing the Sash.

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maskey said the parade had caused offence.

“As soon as they got to the chapel, they started to play music, yet they had observed silence as they passed their own memorial on the other side of the road,” he said.

The question of parades passing Short Strand needed to be urgently addressed, Mr Maskey said.

“Parades are going to be passing that area right up to December,” he said.

“The organisers need to be talking to the residents of Short Strand.”

The Six Counties enjoyed such a quiet marching season thanks largely to “a lot of hard work from local communities”, Mr Maskey said.

“It hasn’t always been easy, but the credit must go to the residents and residents’ groups who have done so much that things have been kept peaceful.

“The loyal orders need to take responsibility and start dialogue with residents.’

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© 2006 Irish Republican News