Irish Republican News · June 11, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dismay over flag intimidation and provocative march plans


Sinn Fein has blamed the PSNI for “reneging on promises” after loyalist flags were erected in a mixed area of south Belfast.

Unionist and loyalist flags were placed on lampposts this week along the Upper Ormeau Road ahead of the Protestant marching season.

Almost 57 per cent of people in the area are Catholic while 27 per cent are Protestant, according to the recent census.

Two years ago, the PSNI said that in future the flying of loyalist flags in the mixed community would be treated as a “breach of the peace”, but backed down last year in the face of loyalist threats.

On Tuesday, Sinn Fein’s new finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir criticised the PSNI over the flags once again being erected in the area and said it “represents reneging by the PSNI on promises to the community”.

Claire Hanna, SDLP assembly member for South Belfast, also expressed concern over the new flags.

“It is frustrating that once again shared areas like the Ormeau Road and Lisburn Road have been covered in flags six weeks before the Twelfth of July,” she said.

“This continues to be a source of frustration for residents who are forced to live under the shadow of these unwelcome flags on main thoroughfares for so long.”

Responding to the controversy, the PSN said removing flags isn’t their responsibility.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said police will only remove flags where there are “substantial risks to public safety”.

Meanwhile, the Orange Order is planning to hold contentious parades in nationalist areas in another action likely to provoke. The nationalist town of Ballycastle in County Antrim has been selected as a venue for one of 18 main parades to mark the Twelfth of July celebrations.

Located in the heart of the Glens of Antrim, the picturesque seaside town has been the centre of a parades dispute in the past.

The order has also revealed plans to host a massive parade through Portadown in County Armagh. Both it and a similar march in Kilkeel in County Down have been given `flagship’ status and are expected to be among the biggest Orange parades held across the north.

Tensions in Portadown have been high in the past after nationalists opposed Orange Order parades passing along the nationalist Garvaghy Road. Nationalist residents on the Garvaghy Road have described Orange Order proposals to complete a banned parade through the area as “absurd”.

In a statement the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition said insistence on finishing the 1998 parade “demonstrates complete disregard for the views of those who would be most directly affected - residents of the area and their families”.

The spokesman said a generation of young nationalists know nothing of the dispute.

“Since 1998, and particularly from the start of this millennium, the rerouting of contentious marches away from the Garvaghy Road by the Parades Commission has meant that our community - and the wider community - has enjoyed successive peaceful summers,” the statement said.

“An entire generation of young people has grown up and reached adulthood without having to experience the humiliation and fear, tension and violence, or the physical sieges that accompanied those unwanted sectarian marches of the mid- and late 1990’s through this community.

“Residents in our neighbourhoods now enjoy family and community life in relative peace and tranquillity. Our community has moved on, Portadown District needs to do likewise.”

The statement said demands to complete the 1998 parade lack sensitivity.

“Demanding to complete the 1998 parade is not only completely absurd, it is also highly insensitive and demonstrates a continued refusal by the Orange Order to assume any responsibility for the violent events associated with Drumcree in the 1990’s,” it said.

“The Orange Order’s parade of July 1998 is in the past. It is over. That parade along Garvaghy Road was found to be totally unjustifiable eighteen years ago. Such a parade has not been justifiable in any of the intervening years since.”

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