Irish Republican News · May 24, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Marching fears high despite Cardiff talks


Representatives of a number of nationalist residents groups have criticised closed-door talks in Wales between the PSNI police and a selection of ‘community delegates’ in advance of the main Protestant marching season.

Those involved in the discussions included PSNI chiefs, loyalist paramilitaries, nationalist and unionist politicians, clergymen as well as selected activists associated with the nationalist and loyalist communities.

Significantly, both the Protestant Orange Order and residents of the Catholic areas through which the most contentious parades are planned were not invited.

However, Sinn Fein welcomed the talks held in Cardiff last weekend. Speaking afterwards, SF assembly member Gerry Kelly said: “This is about policing with the community and the relationship between police and the community.”

“I think, in that instance, in that parameter, the weekend has been successful.”

But some residents’ groups have expressed fears that a concerted campaign is being organised to force provocative loyalist parades through their communities.

Carrick Hill residents spokesman Frank Dempsey, whose group is opposed to loyalist marches past the nationalist area and nearby St Patrick’s Church, said the talks should have included the relevant groups.

“They are going to solve nothing by going over there,” he said. “It’s going to be solved in the areas affected by these parades. We don’t have to go anywhere else to talk, we can go to an Orange Hall or the front room of someone’s house to talk.”

A spokesman for Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, which objects to sectarian parades going through the republican area of north Belfast, said: “They must take a bold step up to the mark and desist from treating our communities as second class citizens, and lets build together a real and genuine island of equals in which a shared future can exist, one in which we and all our children deserve.”

“Then and only then can we together realistically consider looking at bringing walls and barriers that divide our communities down, once and for all.”

The first potential parades crisis looms early next month with plans for a ‘back door’ march by the anti-Catholic Orange Order along Portadown’s overwhelmingly nationalist Garvaghy Road.

Last week, the Order revealed plans to hold a ‘prayer service’ in a park close to the nationalist enclave. The event is linked to a major ‘mini-Twelfth’ parade in Portadown on Saturday June 8, which is expected to involve 2,000 participants and 2,000 supporters.

The Orangemen have been accused of seeking an alternative means to parade through the nationalist area despite major confrontations and rioting over the Order’s parades in the past.

GRRC spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said tensions had again been raised in the area.

“There is a lot of nervousness here,” he said. “Some of the houses backing onto the park don’t have a fence.

“Are they going to access the park from Obins Street or the Garvaghy Road? Nobody knows - it has not been made clear. There is a lot of anxiety about what is happening.”

Craigavon Sinn Fein councillor Gemma McKenna said people in the area have no appetite for a fresh parades dispute.

She said the Orangemen had shown a willingness to reroute one of their parades only when it served to “make the parading issue in Portadown worse”.

Elsewhere, the Orange Order has been urged to hold talks ahead of a provocative parade through the predominately nationalist village of Carnlough, in County Antrim.

Hundreds of bandsmen and supporters are set to descend on the seaside village this summer for a major ‘Twelfth of July’ demonstration to mark the 17th century Protestant battle victory.

Sinn Fein assembly member Oliver McMullan warned that the the Orange Order had refused to speak to him or Carnlough community groups.

“They have told the police they are not talking to the Parades Commission or Sinn Fein,” he said.

“This does not go well for a shared future the first minister and deputy first minister spoke about.

“Here we have the Orange Order refusing to buy into it. This nonsense has gone on long enough, it’s time to grow up and sit down and talk.”

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© 2013 Irish Republican News