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Loyalists call off Lower Ormeau march

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Within 48 hours of a scheduled Apprentice Boys march taking place in the nationalist Lower Ormeau area on Easter Monday, it was canceled as a "gesture of respect" for the crisis in the farming community caused by a new outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease.

All feeder parades were also called off in what the loyal order’s governor, Alasdair Simpson, said was a "voluntary decision, taken out of sympathy with the farmers."

The decision defused a potentially volatile situation. Nationalist residents had pledged to stage a "dignified yet effective" sit-down protest, while police said they would "enforce the rule of law."

In an initial response, a spokesman for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community said that, although the group would have preferred the cancellation of the feeder parade out of respect for their community’s wishes, rather than foot and mouth, it was nevertheless welcomed.

Republican parades in country areas were also cancelled and only Easter parades in towns and cities went ahead. Sinn Fein called on people from the country not to attend any parades.

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The foot-and-mouth crisis deepened over Easter with 16,000 animals due for slaughter in County Tyrone and as many, if not more, after an outbreak of the disease in Cushendall, Co. Antrim.

Before the Apprentice Boys announced their cancellation, the Parades Commission made an 11th-hour appeal to nationalist residents on the Ormeau Road to abide by its ruling allowing the group to march.

In what’s being viewed as a gesture of sympathy toward the LOCC, the Commission chairman, Tony Holland, said he accepted this was a "difficult time for all concerned, and particularly for those who opposed this parade."

He pointed out that the parade would consist of only 25 men and one band, that would remain silent.

"There is a need to build a future relationship which accommodates the real needs of residents and the Belfast Walkers Club and one which demonstrates mutual respect and understanding," Holland said.

This cut little ice with LOCC leaders, who say the Commission’s ruling was designed to send a message to the Orange Order in Portadown that any talks, however cosmetic, will be rewarded with a parade along the Garvaghy Road.<

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