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Lower Ormeau parade decision delayed

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — In what may be the last major row of this year’s loyalist marching season, tension is rising in the nationalist Lower Ormeau area after a surprise delay in the Parades Commission’s ruling on whether the loyalist Apprentice Boys group can march through the area.

The ruling had been due on Monday, but it is thought the Apprentice Boys are coming under pressure to agree to reroute their parade, in return for which they may be allowed to march through the Lower Ormeau before the end of the year.

The Lower Ormeau Concerned Community group, meanwhile, has welcomed the results of an opinion poll conducted among residents, under the control of their parish priest, Fr. Anthony Curran, showing that 95 percent are opposed to the march.

The LOCC said the poll showed the "overwhelming and democratic expression of our community’s desire to live free from sectarian harassment." The vote showed 96 percent want the rerouting of all loyal order parades.

Agreement over next Saturday’s main Apprentice Boys march through Derry hinges on the controversial "feeder" parade through the Lower Ormeau. The Bogside Residents Group say they will not protest in Derry if there is agreement on the Lower Ormeau.

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LOCC spokesman Gerard Rice said the significance of the poll was that it refuted the "absolute denial by the loyal orders that a problem exists," he said, adding that the marching orders "will now have to recognize there is a problem."

"For years we have listened to the lie from the Orange Order and their political allies that there is no real opposition to parades going through the lower Ormeau area," he said. "These parades are opposed because they are sectarian and designed to intimidate."

The ballot, which had a turnout of more than 600 residents, has led to renewed calls for dialogue between residents and marchers, but Dawson Baillie, the leader of the Belfast Orangemen, said: "We believe that it’s our right and everyone’s right to walk down a main thoroughfare. We’re not going into side streets."

Meanwhile, in evidence of continuing sectarian tensions, loyalists hoisted a British flag over the offices of the Sinn Fein minister for education, Martin McGuinness, on Friday — the 100th birthday of the British queen mother.

McGuinness and fellow Sinn Fein minister Bairbre de Brun refuse to fly the union flag over their departmental offices unless the Irish tri-color also flies to respect both the Irish and British identities in Northern Ireland.

Loyalists allied to the UVF-backed PUP hoisted the British flag over McGuinness’s offices at Bangor in North County Down and loyalists also heckled de Brun outside her department on Friday.

Earlier in the week, demonstrators pelted de Brun with eggs and attacked her ministerial car outside a hospital in Lisburn, Co. Antrim.

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