Residents of a nationalist enclave in east Belfast are furious that a loyalist parade engaged in provocation on Saturday in open defiance of a ban by the Parades Commission.
Residents of the Short Strand have now lodged complaints with the Parades Commission about the ‘kick-the-pope’ conduct of bands during a march past the nationalist area on Saturday.
Up to 400 members of the No 4 Royal Black District Chapter of the Apprentice Boys accompanied by six loyalist bands marched past the Short Strand.
The Parades Commission had banned the bands from playing music, other than a single drumbeat, between the loyalist memorial at the Newtownards Road and the junction of Bridge End.
A member of the Short Strand Residents’ Group, who asked not to be named, said that the ban had been ignored.
“The determination was flouted by every band on parade,” said the resident.
“The determination stated that on the outward and return journey only a single drum beat was to be played, but they played The Sash, Derry’s Walls and No Pope in Rome on the outward and return journeys.
“These songs were played as they marched past St Matthew’s Church. Residents are angry, not just about the breach of conditions, but they don’t see the need for this parade. They get off a bus to march about 600 yards solely to walk past the Short Strand,” he added.
This is the second year running that the residents have lodged a complaint with the Parades Commission about the conduct of marchers. Last year they also complained that bands breached similar restrictions which had been placed on the playing of music.
“We lodged a complaint last year and nothing was done about it,” said the resident.
“Residents are angry because there seem to be two laws, one law for ordinary citizens and one for loyal orders. The loyal orders can’t be above law and order,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin councillor Brendan Curran criticised a similar band parade which inflamed tensions and required the closing down of a main road into Newry at the weekend.
“The flying of UVF bannerettes and flags by several bands was a very deliberate sectarian assault and intimidation on the nationalist residents of the area and a direct violation of the Parades Commission determination,” he said.
“I believe that this parade has effectively set back community relations in the area.”
Meanwhile, the Orange Order has been accused of orchestrating a background of “mischievous speculation and misleading public comment” about the appointment of a talks mediator in the Drumcree marching dispute.
The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, representing residents of the nationalist area in Portadown, has been forced to dismiss hype that new talks over the Order’s attempts to march through the nationalist enclave were at hand.
The exclusively Protestant marching order claimed that former 26-County Taoiseach Albert Reynolds was set to act as mediator in the dispute.
However, the Garvaghy Residents said a “clear gap of understanding” still has to be bridged before there is any chance of a mediation process. The residents say the only way this can be done is for the Orange Order to settle all of the related issues, not just the row over the march at Drumcree.
Ingrained anti-Catholic sectarianism in the town is at the heart of the dispute over the march route, a subject which the Orange Order have traditionally refused to broach.
Despite significant progress in other march disputes around the North, the Orange Order has long opposed holding face-to-face talks in regard to the Drumcree parade.
In recent months, there had been reports based on sources connected to the Orange Order that behind-the-scenes talks were set to lead to agreement on an agenda, remit and chairman. However, these have been repeatedly challenged by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, who have questioned the motives for the reports.
The Parades Commission has said potential mediators were not a subject of discussion. “We don’t know where this speculation has come from,” said a spokesman.