Tensions are rising ahead of a controversial Orange Order parade in west Belfast. Loyalist groups have applied to hold a 200-strong protest in opposition to a protest by nationalist residents against an Orange Order parade on the Springfield Road on the July 12 morning.
It is the first time that loyalists have applied to hold such a counter-demonstration.
The commission had ruled that nationalist residents can protest along a certain stretch of Springfield Road but, as with a similar parade in June, placed restrictions on the protest.
Residents are angry over the use of known unionist paramilitaries to steward the recent Whiterock parade and the carrying of a banner honouring a convicted UVF killer have raised tensions in the area.
Springfield Road residents’ spokesman Sean Murray accused the North and West Belfast Parades Forum of raising tensions ahead of Thursday’s march.
“They had already increased tensions by signalling that they will use a loyalist band which has previously been banned in 2004 for carrying UVF banners,” he said.
“Now we are being told that they not only want to force an Orange parade through a nationalist area but they’re also insisting on a 200-strong loyalist protest taking place.
“This has done nothing to defuse an already volatile situation.” Residents had made submissions to the Parades Commission and the PSNI police over the use of unionist paramilitaries to marshal a parade through a nationalist area of west Belfast last week.
A determination on the Whiterock July 12 march has ruled that two Orange lodges and one band be allowed to march down a nationalist stretch of Springfield Road and through an interface gate at Workman Avenue.
As in previous years, Orangemen will not be allowed to return via the contested stretch of road later that evening when they will instead pass through the former Mackies industrial site.
During a parade last week, Glasgow flute band Sons of Ulster carried a standard honouring Noel Kinner, a Shankill UVF man convicted of murdering father-of-three Brendan McLoughlin in the Clonard area of west Belfast in 1980.
Kinner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder and was released in 1994, two years before his death.
Mr Murray said: “This behaviour can only be seen as provocative to members of our community who are being asked to facilitate this parade.”
The family of the murdered man are to make legal representations to the Parades Commission demanding action be taken against the organisers of the controversial Whiterock Orange Order parade.
His elderly mother Betty said she was horrified that the banner had been carried just yards from where her son was murdered.
The mother of 11 said that the family have struggled over the years to cope with Brendan’s murder and that seeing the flag bearing the face of his killer had caused them great distress.
“To glorify this man in this way is a disgrace and through a solicitor we have made a complaint to the parades commission and to the PSNI.
“Three young boys were robbed of their father by him and his mob.
“For this Scottish band to chose him to put on their flag was no coincidence, they did it because they knew they would be marching close to the spot where Brendan was killed.”