Category: Archive

North’s Parades Commission again reroutes Drumcree march

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Nothern Ireland’s Parades Commission has rerouted the annual Drumcree Orange march away from the nationalist Garvaghy Road area for the fifth consecutive year, calling on the Order to engage in sustained dialogue with residents.

The decision is bound to increase tension, already at a boiling point on the streets in some areas of Belfast. One example this week came when loyalists attacked a Catholic pensioner with a meat cleaver in North Belfast.

The man suffered head wounds and was taken to hospital. Elsewhere in Belfast, six students escaped injury when a blast bomb was thrown into their home, close to the loyalist “vVillage” area of South Belfast.

The students, who included both Catholics and Protestants, have now left the area. Three police officers were also injured in rioting at the flashpoint North Queen Street area of the city on Friday.

Coming to a decision on Drumcree, the Parades Commission said it had heard through third parties about some positive developments and had noted the efforts the parade organizers have made to train marshals.

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The Commission also praised residents representatives, who, it said, exerted “a calming influence on protestors at a parade earlier this year.” And yet despite these gains, it said there remains a gulf between nationalists and Orangemen that would best be bridged by dialogue.

It said that a year ago it received proposals from the Orange Order, far too late to affect the decision, but there had since been time to improve them. The Commission then contacted Grand Lodge but received no response until a public statement withdrawing the proposal.

In the interests of progress, the Commission said, it wrote more than once to the Orange Order in Portadown to establish the parade organizers’ views about selecting an external mediator, but heard nothing back.

It had now received a similar proposal and has had a response from the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and believed constructive, patient dialogue was now needed to rebuild trust.

“This will clearly require a constructive approach by all concerned, rather than simply dipping in and out of mediation in a manner that suggests less than genuine and sustained engagement,” the Commission said. “The status quo should not be acceptable to those who value the parading tradition, nor indeed to anyone who cares about quality of life and community relations in Portadown.”

The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, has appealed to nationalists not to do anything that would escalate tensions during what is likely to be a difficult marching season.

“Every little incident and every big incident is being seized upon by those who want this process to come down,” Adams said. “Nationalists and republicans who profess support for the process have to remain calm and disciplined.”

Adams was speaking after members of his party`s youth wing, Ogra Sinn Fein, were accused of donning masks and pelting a rural police station with stones in Rosslea, Co. Fermanagh, on Sunday.

Nationalists also clashed with police in West Belfast on Saturday after an Orange Order parade passed through the main Falls/Shankill peaceline and along the nationalist Springfield Road.

There were also early-morning clashes in the interface in the Short Strand-East Belfast on Saturday. Sinn Fein claimed the trouble erupted as a result of loyalist attacks across the peace line.

Recent street violence, revelations of possible collusion between the police/British Army and loyalist paramilitaries, and a crisis in confidence in Unionism are lifting the temperature of this year’s marching season.

Earlier, former U.S. Sen.George Mitchell said that the people of Northern Ireland must be “patient, steady and forward looking” at a time of great strain on the peace process.

“I think it is unrealistic to expect that difficulties and divisions that have built up over many decades, even centuries, are going to vanish with the stroke of a pen or in a short period of time,” he said.

Meanwhile, a report by London Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens into claims of collusion has been delayed until the fall. It had been expected that the report would be delivered in a few weeks.

Scotland Yard said the delay was because Stevens was determined that the report would be what it called “absolutely thorough.” A primary focus of the investigation is the murder of Catholic attorney Pat Finucane, who was shot dead by loyalists in his North Belfast home in 1989.

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