A loyalist march has incredibly been given permission to march directly through the centre of Armagh next Saturday, on a night when thousands of people will have descended on the city for its annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
More than 1,000 loyalists are to attempt to march through the predominately nationalist city on Saturday night after ‘Blood and Thunder’ flute band Cormeen Rising Sons of William, based in nearby Killylea, were granted permission to parade along with 40 other ‘Kick the Pope’ bands.
The Parades Commission had been urged to rule against the loyalist parade, which is due to take place just hours after 17,000 people are expected to participate in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Armagh has extensive historical connections with the saint and the annual celebrations are the city’s biggest tourism attraction day of the year.
Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said last night the decision was “disastrous and must be challenged”.
Unionist political representatives in the city had supported the march, with the PSNI police saying it had ‘no objections’.
The flute band had applied for permission to parade until 11pm. The inexplicable ruling in favour of the march restricted the parade by just 30 minutes, stating the three hour long parade should instead disperse by an earlier time of 10.30pm.
Apart from the usual ban on paramilitary flags and emblems there are no other significant restrictions on the march.
Mr Murphy said last night, “For the PSNI to state that there are ‘no local concerns or sensitivities’ attached to this march is utter nonsense and begs the question, what planet are they living on?
“That input by the PSNI raises serious questions about their judgement and their knowledge of nationalist feelings on what is clearly seen as a sectarian march.
“The Parades Commission have made a dreadful decision which has the potential to destroy the St Patrick’s Day festivities in Armagh which last year attracted over 16000 visitors to the city.”