The Parades Commission stands accused of rewarding loyalist violence
after it ruled that a sectarian, coat-trailing march can pass along the
nationalist Springfield Road in west Belfast this weekend.
The commission said 50 members of the Orange Order' could march through
a peaceline gate onto the Springfield Road during the controversial
Whiterock parade on Saturday.
It follows a series of peaceful overtures from nationalists in recent
weeks. Last month, the anti-Catholic Orange Order reported that it
received a letter from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams supporting their
right to parade. Last week, a ground-breaking deal was reached after
residents in north Belfast agreed to allow a sectarian parade to pass
through the traditionally republican Ardoyne area.
However, there is little sign of agreement on the controversial
Whiterock Road parade. Last September a rerouted parade ended in some
of the worst violence witnessed in many years.
Loyalist gunmen fired more than 150 shots and threw 167 blast bombs at
police and soldiers after Orangemen were blocked from marching through
the Workman Avenue peaceline gate and on past nationalist homes on the
Springfield Road. Unusually, Orangemen in sashes and traditional dress
engaged wholeheartedly in subsequent rioting.
While 50 Orangemen will parade through the peaceline on Saturday, the
remainder of the march - totalling 16 bands and 700 Orangemen - will go
through a nearby industrial estate.
All banners and insignia relating to UVF man Brian Robinson have been
banned from the parade, although such conditions are routinely ignored.
Springfield Road residents spokesman Sean Murray said the commission
had "given in to the threat of loyalist violence".
"This is a total slap in the face to those of us who advocated dialogue
and compromise," he said.
"The Orange Order and the loyalist paramilitaries have been rewarded
for the violence last year.
"The message this sends out to nationalists is that violence and
intimidation is the only thing the Parades Commission listens to.
"We offered compromise and dialogue and have been totally betrayed.
"This is a parade that goes past nationalist homes carrying banners
commemorating UVF men who have murdered innocent Catholics."
Gerry Adams urged the Parades Commission to
review its decision.
Mr Adams accused the commission of capitulating to a renewed threat of
"They have compounded the problem," he said.
"Rather than seeking to promote an accommodation through dialogue
Parades Commission has instead promoted the idea of a parade through
the threat of further loyalist violence.
"This is entirely the wrong approach.
"Sinn Fein have asked the Parades Commission to review what we believe
is a deeply flawed determination."
The Springfield Road march is being viewed as the new-look Parades
Commission's biggest test to date.
Seven new members, two of whom are Orangemen, were appointed to the
body in controversial circumstances last year. The appointments
remain the subject of an ongoing legal challenge by nationalist
Mr Adams, who met the Parades Commission in Belfast yesterday, urged
that a satisfactory compromise was to allow the parade through the
industrial 'Mackies' site.
"Rather than visit two Orange parades on the people of the Upper
Springfield they should come up with a determination that upholds the
rights, on the one hand, of the Orangemen but more particularly of the
[nationalist] host community. And there is an alternative route through
Mackies site," he said.
Mr Adams also said that Orange leaders should recognise the rights of
nationalist residents and he hoped that "wiser voices within unionism"
would see the commission's ruling as a "stupid decision and will
to play their part in calming the situation".
When asked would there be trouble if the commission did not change its
determination Mr Adams replied:
"Well, we will do our best, but we do our best against decisions
actually reward trouble. This trouble last year was arguably the worst
rioting by loyalists - loyal to who? - in this city perhaps since the
Meanwhile, both the PSNI and the Parades Commission have come under
fire over their handling of a controversial march in County Armagh two
The Police Ombudsman mounted an investigation into criticism of the
PSNI handling of a sectarian Protestant parade in Lurgan on the evening
of July 13 2004.
Nationalist politicians were outraged when officers redirected marchers
past the point legally permitted by the Parades Commission.
A car blocking the intended route was cited by police as the reason for
not fully enforcing the commission's determination.
However, the PSNI was criticised for not taking immediate action
against the driver, a loyal order supporter.
A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who later
decided not to prosecute the motorist.
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly, who lodged the complaint with
the ombudsman's office, said the party's position had been
"The SDLP always argued that the police had failed to uphold the
Parades Commission determination regarding the march," she said.
Ms Kelly said there was "plenty of space" for marchers to get
car which was blocking the route.
"Worse, the owner of the car was never brought to court in the end,"
"We are determined to ensure that the law is upheld and not broken.
hope that the police learn a lesson from what has happened."