Parades decision may avert crisis
The North's Parades Commission has this afternoon decided not to
allow an anti-Catholic march by the Apprentice Boys'
organisation past the nationalist Ardyone area of north Belfast.
The Ardoyne parade is a feeder parade for the main Apprentice
Boys' march in Derry in which 10,000 people are expected to take
Even though the parade has passed off peacefully in recent
years, there had been clear predictions of a repeat of last
month's riot. On July 12, a parade by the Protestat Orange
Order, supported by hundreds of hardline loyalists including
some paramilitaries, was forced through the area. Young
nationalists, angered by the failure to implement a ruling
against the coat-trailing parade, clashed with British Crown
forces. Sinn Fein politicians worked to quell the protests, with
only limited success.
There were justifiable fears this week of a violent rematch
between angry residents on the one hand, and loyalists and
British forces on the other. In particular, Sinn Fein's Gerry
Kelly faced a difficult choice after being strongly criticised
by republican hardliners for physically defending British
paratroopers engaged in the July 12 operation.
Mr Kelly today said that the Parades Commission determination
banning the parade was "the only sensible decision that could
have been reached".
Last month, unionist paramilitaries blockaded roads and the
Orange Order successfully threatened unspecified disruption if
their parade was not allowed through the nationalist enclave. Mr
Kelly today warned that the determination must not be
over-turned by the actions of the PSNI or the British
government's Northern Ireland Office.
"It would have been wrong of the Parades Commission to add
insult to injury by allowing the Apprentice Boys to come down
this road. This was the only sensible decision to make. There
should be no acquiescence to threats of violence from the Orange
Order or Unionist paramilitaries.
"It is important that there is no repeat of the secret deals
done between the PSNI and the NIO. Given recent u-turns Sinn
Fein will continue to monitor the situation closely."
Nigel Dodds of Ian Paisley's DUP condemned the decision, which
he claimed was due to threats from Sinn Fein and residents
groups. A protest during the main Apprentice Boys parade in
Derry was being considered by the local Bogside residents' group
if the Ardoyne parade was give the go-ahead.
"The Commission have once again demonstrated how out of touch
they are," Mr Dodds said. "They are obviously unfit to make
determinations on parades and should be disbanded immediately..
"It is absolutely deplorable that the Parades Commission have
decided to stop a parade which has never caused any trouble
simply because of the threat of violence from people who cannot
tolerate the peaceable expression of unionist culture".
CLASHES 'NOT POLITICAL'
There were clashes in Derry last night involving local youths
and the PSNI police, and some petrol bombs were thrown.
No one was injured, but one man was arrested during the
disturbances around the small loyalist Fountain enclave.
The trouble comes amid heightening tension in the city over the
main annual march of the Apprentice Boys in Derry on August 14.
However, Sinn Fein denied that the clashes were related to the
A party spokesman said: "An atmosphere is being created and
young people sometimes react in the wrong manner.
"But calling them nationalist youths or unionist youths tends to
elevate it into something it isn't. It's not political."
* The Apprentice Boys have also sought to march through the
nationalist William Street area of Lurgan before boarding buses
to travel to Derry for the main march. Local Sinn Fein
representatives John O'Dowd and Dara O'Hagan met with the
Parades Commission this week to discuss the issue.
Mr O'Dowd said that "given the level of anger amongst
nationalists in the town following the antics of the PSNI and
the RBP in parading through the nationalist end of the town on
July 13th in defiance of the Parades Commission, there is no way
that a coat trailing exercise down William Street will be
accepted next Saturday."