There are fears over a new sectarian Orange Order parade through a mainly nationalist area of Glengormley in County Antrim, which planned as part of a provocative protest in support of other sectarian Orange parades.
The proposed route will take loyalists past the town’s St Bernard’s Church, which was destroyed in a loyalist arson attack in 2001.
The area on the outskirts of north Belfast has long been a focus for sectarian tension and nationalists have expressed concern about the impact on community relations.
Organised by the ‘United Orange Districts’ in support of Orangemen in north Belfast and Portadown, the parade will pass along mainly nationalist stretches of Antrim Road and O’Neill Road.
Catholic churches in Glengormley have been targeted by loyalists in the past and a priest was subject to a death threat. Loyalists paramilitaries have killed several people in the area in sectarian attacks since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was signed. The most active paramilitary group in the area has been the south-east Antrim ‘brigade’ of the UDA, which broke away from the main group in 2007.
Glengormley residents accused loyalists of “stoking up” tensions with the sectarian parade. During a meeting with the Parades Commission on Friday, April 10th, residents said they put forward two alternative routes.
“We made our point and told them about the disruption it would cause and about the bands taking part,” said one. “Only one of the bands is from Glengormley. I can see no other reason to take this route other than an act of intimidation and to stir things up.”
He also suggested that if the parade is given the go ahead by the Parades Commission there will be a peaceful nationalist protest. “If this parade comes down we will ask for residents to come out.”
Up to eight bands are planning to take part in the planned parade on Wednesday April 29, which will involve up to 420 people. They include the UDA-supporting Cloughfern Young Conquerors Flute Band, which has caused controversy over its sectarian provovations in the past, as well as Rathcoole Sons of Kai Flute Band also plans to take part in the march. The use of the initials KAI by loyalists traditionally donate ‘Kill all Irish’.
The new parade controversy comes as parade tensions have resurfaced across the North, with a loyalist band playing the sectarian Famine Song just yards from St Patrick’s Church in north Belfast earlier this week. The church has been the focus of systematic sectarian displays by loyalist marchers in recent years.
And sectarian tensions also spilled over into violence when a loyalist gang slashed a young woman across the face in Derry while shouting anti-Catholic abuse.
The victim, in her twenties, was walking through a subway tunnel near Derry’s railway station at Duke Street when she was set upon at around 10.30pm on Easter Sunday.
One of the men in the group asked the woman for a cigarette and when she declined, he punched her in the face and began shouting sectarian abuse at her.
One of the women then sliced her across the face with some type of weapon. The group then made off. The woman was treated in hospital for a large cut and bruising to her face.
The PSNI police said they were treating the attack as a hate crime.