Category: Archive

Fears grow that parade ban may cause loyalist backlash

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST – Fears are growing of a loyalist siege of vulnerable Catholic areas in north Belfast after the hardline organizers of an Orange parade were ordered to reroute it away from Nationalist streets.

The biennial Tour of the North march was due to pass through areas which, because of demographic changes, are mainly Catholic. Two years ago there was serious trouble, with 140 families being forced to leave their homes.

The Orange Order says it’s “frustrated and angry” and has accused the Parades Commission, a British government-appointed body, of coming out against it on all decisions made so far during this summer’s marching season.

The Orange Order says it’s a traditional route, which it has the absolute right to march, under international civil rights law setting out the right to assembly. The march was suspended for more than 20 years after a three-hour gun battle in the area in the mid-1970s.

Its chief executive, George Patton, said the commission had “bowed to Nationalist pressure” and the British government “had to get its act together and sort out troublemakers.”

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

The Order refuses to speak to the local residents’ association because its spokesman, Anthony Barnes, served a six-year prison sentence in the mid-1970s. Neither do they accept the principle of asking for resident’s consent to their marches.

Ulster Unionist Councilor Nelson McCausland, one of the march organizers, said that the Order would obey the law, but the commission has showed that “threats of violence win the day” and if others learned that lesson, the Order should not be blamed.

Local UUP election candidate David Browne called for the commission’s decision to be rescinded. He claimed the RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan, had told him at a social occasion two years ago that he opposed rerouting the Tour of the North.

An official UUP statement blamed “Sinn Fein’s sectarianism” and “meanness of exploiting community tensions.” It accused the commission of “pandering to the lowest common denominator, the professional political agitator.”

“We have passed the moment” said the UUP, “where it is acceptable to demonstrate a hatred of the very sight of one’s neighbor – the epitome of the evil that has pervaded this society for too long.”

In stark contrast, Anthony Barnes said his group was “relieved” at the commission’s decision, which meant the Order could march to its intended destination, but not through areas where it is not welcome.

He and others are concerned, however, at the presence in North Belfast over recent weeks of known hardliners from the Spirit of Drumcree group, which campaigns for all marches to proceed, irrespective of the views of residents.

There are concerns that hardliners will organize a mass standoff possibly at Carlisle Circus, a strategic arterial route between two opposing communities, and a notorious sectarian flashpoint of many riots and attacks over the last 80 years.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese