‘Dignified’ protest at Whiterock Parade
‘Dignified’ protest at Whiterock Parade

A sectarian parade by the Protestant Orange Order passed off without incident in west Belfast on Saturday.

This year there were no major incidents despite the failure to find agreement over the contentiohs Whiterock parade along the Springfield Road.

In 2005 the parade ended in serious violence with PSNI police coming under fire from unionist gunmen and bombers.

Up to 50 Orangemen were allowed to parade through the disputed Workman Avenue gate and past nationalist protesters on the lower Springfield Road, with the rest passing through the Mackies Industrial Estate.

PSNI men in riot gear patrolled the parade and nationalist protest on Saturday, while a Crown force helicopter hovered overhead. However, the level of security was down on previous years.

The Orangemens’ supporters held a short protest at not being allowed to accompany the two lodges through the Workman Avenue gate, but there was no repeat of the violence of two years ago which cost an estimated 3 million pounds.

Nationalist residents lined part of the road as the parade went by, holding two large banners declaring “Make Sectarianism History” and “Parades Commission Maintains Orange Domination”.

The residents had applied to protest outside their homes, but had been restricted by the Parades Commission from protesting any further than the Mackies site.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Paul Maskey complained that nationalists were denied their rights.

“This is a human rights issue where people are not allowed protest outside their own homes,” he said. “That is a total disgrace. The Parades Commission had from last year to now to resolve outstanding issues, and they failed to do so,” he said.

Springfield Road residents spokesman Sean Murray praised the protesters for their dignified approach.

“Residents showed discipline on Saturday and we will be lodging for a full protest along the Upper Springfield Road for July 12.”

A Parades Commission spokesman said the parade had been “managed in a peaceful atmosphere”.

“In the absence of an overall agreement on a parade it is important that all sides work to maintain an atmosphere of calm,” the spokesman said.

“The commission acknowledges the efforts of those on parade and the local residents in the way they have approached and managed this year’s Whiterock parade.

“We urge both sides to move quickly to a renewed talks process which offers the best hope for a meaningful and sustainable agreement on future parades in this area.”

There is growing expectation that he rest of the marching season will be peaceful. The most contentious parades are next Sunday in Drumcree and on Thursday week, July 12th, at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

Meanwhile, the Parades Commission has placed strict restrictions on a loyalist band parade through a County Antrim village later this month following an illegal march last week.

Permission was granted for the Pride of the Village to host a march through the centre of the village on the Elventh Night.

However, parade organisers have been told they must not enter two mixed housing developments in the village after engaging in a provocative illegal display.

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