Marching season begins

Easter saw the first major day of parading in the new season, which will see thousands of parades take place through the summer months.

Doezens of parades by the Apprentice Boys organisation were followed by a large demonstration in Richhill, County Armagh.

But a nationalist residents’ group has accused the Parades Commission of treating them as second-class citizens after they were excluded from talks over a march through a flashpoint area.

Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG) spokesman Joe Marley criticised the commission over a decision to allow a unionist paramilitary group to take part in a march past Ardoyne in Belfast on Monday.

Up to 20 loyalists accompanied two lodges and a band past the Crumlin Road interface at 8.30am.

There was a strong police presence with up to 30 nationalist residents staging a counter protest.

While the march passed off without violence, nationalists were angry that a banner commemorating paramilitary figure Sam Rockett was carried in the parade and that sectarian remarks were made by marchers.

“The commission’s original determination excluded supporters from the parade but at the eleventh hour a meeting took place with the march organisers which we were excluded from,” he said.

“When we complained we were told the commission would only meet us on Tuesday, 24 hours after the parade had taken place.

“It seems nationalists are required to give the commission 28 days notice when we want to hold a protest, but the loyal orders only have to lift the phone and the parades commission will roll over.

“We feel insulted and shabbily treated.”

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