Sinn Fein has warned that tensions are rising in Derry ahead of a major sectarian parade in the city.
The Apprentice Boys loyalist organisation plan to stage the parade, the largest of the summer, through the centre the overwhelmingly nationalist city on August 14th.
Fueling concerns is a so-called “feeder parade”, where loyalists, prior to boarding a bus to Derry, march through the staunchly republican Ardoyne area of north Belfast, which witnessed three days of rioting after a parade by the Protestant Orange Order on July 12th.
Last week, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and North Belfast party colleague Gerry Kelly met the Parades Commission, which rules on parade routes, and said breathing space was required in north Belfast to ease tensions over marches.
Earlier this week, a Sinn Fein delegation led by Mr Adams held the party’s first meeting with a loyalist group from north Belfast as part of hoped-for wider talks on the issue of sectarian parades. Mr Adams described the talks as “open” and “frank”.
“These are big, vexed issues and we have to remind ourselves again about where we have all come from and how difficult this process of society-building and transition is for everyone,” he said.
Mr Kelly said: “We think that it (the August 14 march past Ardoyne) should not go down without the Apprentice Boys talking to the residents and that has not happened for some time now.
Mr Kelly said the north Belfast ‘feeder parade’ was raising tensions.
“This is a feeder parade which passes through the Nationalist areas of Mountainview, Ardoyne and the Dales. The North and West Parades Forum pulled out of the talks with the residents and the Parades Commission in June.
“The issues of contentious parades cannot be resolved without dialogue with the host community. This particular parade is happening in the aftermath of a very bad decision by the Parades Commission on 12th July and in a dialogue vacuum created by the North and West Forum.
“The situation is further exacerbated by the presence of the Shankill Star Flute band in the parade. This band is dedicated to Brian Robinson, a UVF member who murdered Paddy McKenna on the route that this parade proposes to take and where members of the family still live.
“In our opinion the community in this area need the space to have the dialogue necessary to deal with the issues. Forcing this feeder parade down will make things worse.”
Mr Kelly pointed out that the main parade is in Derry and he argued that the Apprentice Boys should go directly to that parade and commence dialogue with the residents of the area as soon as possible thereafter.
“These things are being used by certain other groups to ‘wind up’ the situation. People need space,” he said.