Tensions rise ahead of Apprentice Boys marches
Tensions rise ahead of Apprentice Boys marches

Tensions have increased along two north Belfast interfaces ahead of parades by the unionist Apprentice Boys organisation. Members of the order and one band are due to march in the Whitewell area on Saturday en route to their main parade in Derry.

Tensions in the area have been raised over the last month after loyalists were blamed for an attack on Catholic homes at Catherine’s Court on the Whitewell Road and an arson attack at St Mary’s Primary School which left an assembly hall badly damaged.

On Sunday there were more confrontations between nationalists and loyalists, which resulted in one man being arrested.

While the majority of Saturday’s march will be restricted to the predominantly loyalist White City estate, part of the route will include a section of the Whitewell Road.

Residents have said they will stage a protest on Saturday, but have complained that loyalist marches in the area have doubled over the last year.

“We have no problem with parades in loyalist areas but we do have a problem when they take over the Whitewell Road,” a residents’ spokes-man said.

Meanwhile, the Parades Commission, who rules on contentious parades in the North, is also due to rule on an Apprentice Boys parade past Ardoyne shops on Saturday.

Sixty Apprentice Boys and one band are due to march along the Crumlin Road before 9am.

It was unclear last night if nationalists will hold a protest.

Earlier this summer two contentious Orange Order parades along the interface passed off without major problems.

Meanwhile, there is grave concern at plans to bring over 40 loyalist bands and over 1,000 loyalists into the nationalist village of Rasharkin on the 18th August.

Many of the bands have links to both the UVF and UDA. The village’s Residents Association is to present the Commission with a 100 page document tomorrow detailing the breaches of last year’s Parades Commission decision.

The Commission will also be presented with over 84 pages detailing the results of a questionnaire carried out in Rasharkin showing that over 95% of residents are totally opposed to the parade taking place.

“The decision by Ballymaconnelly Band to try and flood this village with loyalists on 18th August is simply pure and utter madness,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Daithi McKay.

He said residents had made strenuous efforts to try and open up dialogue with the organisers of this parade “but unfortunately these have not been responded to”.

“Last year the presence of loyalist paramilitary bands was well documented in the press and the parade organisers have again applied to bring these bands through the village this year. The silence of Unionist politicians in regard to the presence of loyalist paramilitaries at this parade cannot go on.”

There are also concerns at plans by the Apprentice Boys to march through a nationalist part of Castlederg, County Tyrone on August 13.

“The Apprentice Boys are deliberately raising tensions at a time when the wider community in Castlederg and elsewhere is clearly working to see the summer months pass off without serious incident,” said local Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty.

“This is a reckless decision, and I would appeal to the Parades Commission to ensure that these parades are restricted to unionist areas of Castlederg.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News