Nationalist residents are considering legal action following a Parades Commission ruling on the controversial Whiterock parade in west Belfast next Saturday.
The commission has allowed 50 loyalists to march through the Workman Avenue interface in west Belfast on to the Springfield Road for the second year running, while the rest of the parade follows through the nearby Mackies industrial site.
A decision not to allow nationalist residents to hold a protest along the mainly nationalist stretch of road during the march has caused “deep resentment”, Springfield Road residents’ spokesman Sean Murray said.
Talks between nationalist and loyalist residents and Orangemen ended without agreement earlier this year.
Some of the most violent rioting seen in recent years followed a Whiterock parade in 2005 when Orangemen became involved in clashes with police and up to 50 shots were fired.
“The local nationalist community who actually live on the Springfield Road do not want this parade going through their community. They do not want the massive PSNI presence and the associated hassle which descends on their area annually,” said Sinn Féin West Belfast assembly member Paul Maskey.
The dispute comes after one of more contentious Orange parades of the summer, the ‘Tour of the North’, passed of witout incident earlier this month after a last-minute understanding saw a small, marshalled protest by nationalist residents at the Ardoyne interface.
It is being reported that a similar understanding could yet be reached\ over the Whiterock parade.
ORDER SPINS INTO ACTION
Meanwile, the Orange Order has been accused of “breathtaking bad faith” after warning it could walk away from talks less than 24 hours after claiming it would hold face-to-face talks with residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road estate in Portadown.
Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt claimed on Wednesday that the Protestant marching order was prepared for its first-ever direct dialogue with Garvaghy Road residents over the North’s most notorious march stand-off.
The move was depicted as a major shift in the order’s ten-year-old policy of refusing face-to-face talks with nationalists over their desired march route from Drumcree church to Portadown town centre. After years of loyalist sieges and heavy state violence directed against Catholic residents, recent years have seen the Orangemen re-routed away from the nationalist enclave.
However, at the weekend, Mr Hewitt issued the Parades Commission with an ultimatum that talks must begin by Tuesday [today]. Mr Hewitt also accused the commission of obstructing an offer made by the order last October to enter into direct dialogue with nationalists.
The senior Orangeman warned that his stated deadline meant the “ball was now in the Parades Commission’s court.” He refused to rule out the Order withdrawing its talks offer if mediation had not started by today.
However commission chairman Roger Poole last night insisted that the parades body would not accept the order’s deadline and described the order’s claims that his commission had blocked talks between nationalists and Orangemen as “daft”.
“We don’t listen to ultimatums from anyone,” he said. “We are more than willing for anyone to come in and see us.
Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith accused the order of “breathtaking bad faith” and said he was unsurprised by the order’s ultimatum.
“Our experience since 1995 has been of a whole series of mediation processes, all of which failed because of Orange insincerity,” he said.
“A number of those processes were brought to a halt because of the ultimatums issued by the Orange Order to mediators.
“We are now seeing the order using media spin to put themselves in a favourable light while issuing the Parades Commission with ultimatums.”
In Dublin, another attempt to hold a sectarian unionist parade in the city could take place this summer if 26-County Garda police agreee to give the final go-ahead.
An attempt to hold the parade last year was abandoned before it started amid intense rioting by Dublin youths.
Willie Frazer of anti-republican lobby group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, met senior gardai in the city last week to seek permission to organise the march.
Speaking after the one-hour meeting, a Garda spokesman described it as “cordial and productive” but said no decisions had been made.
However, Mr Frazer said the group had been told that the Gardai would defy protests and force the parade, with 25 ‘kick-the-pope’ bands and 3,000 loyalists, down O’Connell Street, Ireland’s main thoroughfare.
FAIR is now expected to begin arrangements to stage a march and rally in the city centre some time in August, with members hoping to win the support of unionist politicians in the weeks ahead.
Republican Sinn Féin, which organised a small sit-down protest last year, has said it will publicly protest “at any attempt to once again impose a loyalist march on the people of Dublin”.
In a statement Republican Sinn Féin Vice President Des Dalton said: “Every year the nationalist people of the Six-Counties are terrorised and imprisoned in their homes and communities by sectarian and triumphalist orange/loyalist marches. Homes, schools and churches are regularly attacked by loyalists.
“Bringing such a march to Dublin it is an attempt to legitimise the religious bigotry and intolerance of loyalism as well as further marginalising the nationalist people of the Six-Counties who suffer directly at the hands of loyalists.
“We view a loyalist march in Dublin, like the proposed visit to the 26-Counties by the Queen of England, as part of the ongoing campaign to normalise British Rule in Ireland.”