Lockdown clashes with marching season

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Four sectarian parades are being planned by loyalists despite the continuing coronavirus lockdown in the north of Ireland.

The Orange Order has cancelled this year’s July parades, and the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry in August is also now cancelled, but the Parades Commission has still received four applications for parades. Three are to be held in July to mark the anniversary of a Protestant battle victory over Catholics in 1690.

The Dervock Young Defenders ‘Blood and Thunder’ flute band notified the commission of its intention to hold a parade around the County Antrim village of Dervock on July 13. The band has engaged in serious sectarian confrontations during past parades.

The Parades Commission, which is empowered to decide on parades since it was set up in response to violence and large-scale rioting over parade routes in the late 1990s, banned a parade by the Young Defenders in 2016 after mask-wearing band members nearly started a riot in the town of Rasharkin as it provoked nationalist protestors.

Independent councillor Padraig McShane, who was arrested by the PSNI as he became enraged by a torrent of vile abuse from the bandsmen, hit out at the parade plans.

“Causeway Coast and Glens Council have only this week scrapped the Lammas Fair for 2020,” he said. “The North West 200 and other major events throughout the summer months have also been cancelled in an effort to keep people safe. This move by the bands can only be described as dumb.”

‘Cookstown Grenadiers’ have also applied to parade in the predominately nationalist town of Cookstown, County Tyrone, on July 11 and July 13.

The largest sectarian march is being planned by the ‘South Belfast Cultural and Historical Society’ and is due to be held on September 12. Organisers expect up to 1,500 participants and supporters to take part in what could be a provocative parade around south Belfast.

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