OUTRAGE AT PARADE U-TURN
A decision by the Parades Commission to allow a sectarian march
to pass through a republican area of west Belfast has reignited
the issue of contentious parades in the North of Ireland.
The parade by the Protestant Orange Order involving unionist
paramilitaries was forced through part of the Springfield Road
on Saturday afternoon despite the Commission's ruling last week
that the march be rerouted from the area.
Hundreds of nationalists staged a peaceful protest on Saturday
afternoon amid a major security operation.
The commissionpis decision also sparked impromptu protests across
Belfast by nationalist community groups, who blocked a number
of major routes. They expressed fears that the Commission may
make further concessions if loyalists threaten further violence.
Nationalist community leaders were also praised for keeping
protests peaceful despite immense anger.
Congratulating the protestors, Sinn FEin Assembly member Michael
Ferguson said the message being sent to the British government
was "very clear".
"If nationalist communities are hemmed in and unable to move
about their normal business then the same standard will be
applied to everyone else," he said.
"Nationalist communities will not be treated as second class.
The British government need to understand clearly that the broad
nationalist community is not prepared to simply sit back and
watch small nationalist areas being besieged by the PSNI to
force through unwanted parades."
Last week, road blockades by unionists, coupled with heavy
aggression and intimidation of motorists, appeared to coerce the
Parades Commission into making a late reversal of its decision.
The commission claimed talks with unionist and paramilitary
representatives had encouraged it to change its mind.
No tunes were played as the parade passed and paramilitary flags
were kept furled during the 10-minute procession.
However, Sean Paul OpiHare, Springfield Residents Association
spokesman, said the U-turn by the Parades Commission had
>=shattered<= community relations.
>=The residents are still extremely angry at the decision,<= he
>=They feel they have been treated very, very poorly by the
Parades Commission. Community relations are shattered, what are
the Parades Commission going to do in the next weeks to resolve
Mr OpiHare said residents were >=very wary<= about future parades
in the area.
>=We are receiving mixed messages from the Orange Order.
Obviously people are very wary of what is going to happen.<=
Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey described the event as a
>=It was a victory for intimidation, violence and threats,<= he
>=Nationalists across the island are angry at the events of the
past few days and are watching closely to see if further
unionist threats are rewarded with other parades being forced
through nationalist areas.<=