Irish Republican News · March 29, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Parishioners told ‘stay away’ as loyalists parade past church


North Belfast nationalists are expected to defy a ban on holding a protest outside a Catholic church during one of the biggest sectarian parades of the year.

People living in Carrick Hill reacted angrily after the Parades Commission restricted the location of proposed protests as loyalist members of the Apprentice Boys pass the flashpoint St Patrick’s Church and nearby nationalist homes on Easter Monday.

Protests at a car park opposite the city centre church and at Clifton Street are limited to 30 people.

A request to stand directly outside St Patrick’s -- the parish church of many of the protesters -- was refused. Last year, loyalists caused controversy by marching in circles outside the chapel while playing sectarian tunes. On another occasion, they were observed to urinate on the church railings.

The commission was criticised last week for permitting the Apprentice Boys to parade along the disputed route with only minor restrictions.

Residents’ spokesman Frank Dempsey said his community might decide to ignore the commission both on where protests are held and the numbers taking part.

Referring to previous parades past St Patrick’s, he asked: “Why are parishioners not allowed to stand outside their own church when the leadership of the UVF can stand outside it?”

Mr Dempsey said that before coming to a decision people in the area will consider comments PSNI chief Matt Baggott made during the Union Jack protests.

He said: “People are asking ‘Do we really have to go near the Parades Commission given what Matt Baggott said in January that anyone is entitled to a peaceful protest?’

“Resident groups are abiding by determinations and the loyal orders don’t even consult with the Parades Commission and then break their determinations.

“Then they are rewarded in places like Carrick Hill, Ardoyne and Short Strand.”

The commission has also been criticised for allowing the Apprentice Boys to march past the Ardoyne interface despite having turned down an offer to meet residents.

SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon said an “apparent lack of consistency” in the commission’s decisions was a source of frustration.

“Residents in Carrick Hill are asking me why, when the commission deemed the route past St Patrick’s controversial and reflected this in its determination on the parade, are they not allowed to peacefully protest at this spot outside the church?” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said: “Without dialogue from the loyal orders, with either the residents or the Parades Commission, parades should not get the go-ahead.”

The main Ardoyne residents group, GARC, said the parade through the area by a Protestant supremacist organisation was unwanted.

They pointed out that the parade was obviously intended to be provocative as the marchers were being bussed into the community in order to hold their march, before taking part in the main parade in Derry.

“The obvious questions to be asked of the Apprentice Boys, locally and at leadership level, is why they simply don’t board their bus when they assemble and go to Derry?

“Why is it so important to march through an area that has shown time and time again for generations that their sectarianism is not welcome?

“Why can they not have a day celebrating their culture without first having to trample over the rights of their neighbours to live free from sectarianism?

“And the simple answers are that they enjoy the opportunity to remind the ‘taigs’ of their place, and that while permission is continually granted by the Parades Commission then it will be continually sought.”

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© 2013 Irish Republican News