25 June 2005


Thousands at Orange protest march

Thousands of people have gathered in the Shankill area of Belfast for an Orange Order protest being held in place of the suspended Whiterock parade.

The Orange Order has said, however, it will march along its traditional Whiterock Parade route before autumn.

Nationalist residents of the Springfield Road welcomed the postponement of the parade.

But DUP councillor Nelson McCausland said the Order was determined to march without being re-routed.

"The protest parade today is only the start and we would encourage people to support that protest parade. Then, over the coming weeks and months, that campaign strategy will unfold.

"It undoubtedly will include such things as an exploration of a legal challenge to what the parade's commission has done.

"But, in the end, we are determined to secure our basic right to parade there to the Whiterock hall as brethern have done for the past 48 years."

The Parades Commission had imposed route restrictions on the march.

The Orange Order wanted to go through Workman Avenue, off the mainly nationalist Springfield Road, but had been ordered by the commission to go though the former Mackies factory site.

The decision to call off the parade was announced by the North and West Belfast Parades Forum following a meeting on Friday.

The forum represents a wide range of unionist-loyalist-Orange opinion.

Forum spokesman Tommy Cheevers described recent events as "a deliberate attempt to humiliate and demean" the loyalist community.

He also called on the government to review the role of the Parades Commission.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds called on people to support the protest parade.

He said: "The disgraceful Parades Commission ruling to insult the Orange brethren, by forcing them through an industrial site, has been rightly rejected.

Residents welcome move

"By their actions in postponing, not cancelling, the Whiterock parade, the Orange Order, the North and West Forum and the entire community are committed to an ongoing campaign for the human and civil rights of Orange brethren and Protestants throughout north and west Belfast. "

In a statement, nationalist residents said the only way to resolve the matter was for the parade organisers to resume negotiations with the residents.

Earlier this week, the Parades Commission rejected two applications for it to reverse its decision to impose restrictions on the parade.

It said it could not review its original ruling as it has not received any new information.

The commission said its original ruling was a "genuine attempt to manage the many difficult and emotive issues" surrounding this year's Whiterock parade.

It said it wanted to "accommodate the concerns of the parade organisers and residents".

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

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