14 July 2005

Mayhem: Silence descends at march


by Ciara Mcguigan

An eerie veil of silence fell over the normally bustling Springfield Road on Tuesday morning as crowds of residents gathered to protest over the contentious 12th of July Orange Order parade.

Lined peacefully along either side of the Springfield Road, residents spoke in hushed tones as they waited for the parade to begin – the buzz of three helicopters circling high above the roa slicing through the stillness.

Holding placards condemning ‘Sectarian Marches’, residents displayed posters calling for ‘Meaningful Dialogue’ – a dialogue which broke down last month after a Parades Commission ruling ordering the Whiterock Lodge parade to bypass the contentious stretch of road by using the Mackies site route.

A strong PSNI presence flanked the Springfield Road, with an estimated 20 Land Rovers and over 50 officers patrolling the full length of the parade route.
A number of officers also carried video and camera equipment.

Political representatives, including Sinn Féin councillors Tom Hartley, Chrissie Mac Giolla Mhín and Fra McCann, were also present, lending their support to the residents, each holding a white sheet reading, ‘Meaningful Dialogue = Respect’.

In a startling incident just before the march began, protestors awaiting the late arrival of the Orange march narrowly escaped injury as a speeding car, adorned with Union flags, careered up on to the footpath, causing seated protestors to scatter, narrowly avoiding serious injury or worse.

As the parade finally got under way, representatives from four Orange Lodges made their way past Catholic homes towards the gates, patrolled by PSNI, at Workman Avenue.

Orangemen marched to a single drumbeat as they paraded along the contentious route, led by two young children wearing junior-sized Orange sashes.

Herded through the Workman Avenue gates, the Orange marchers were followed, at a distance, by the assembled crowd of Springfield Road residents who held their placards high above their heads in a silent, dignified protest.

As they left the road and made their way back on to the other side of the peaceline, marchers were greeted by loud yells and triumphant whoops from their waiting supporters and the two bands accompanying the march immediately struck up an ear-bashing din as their supporters waved Union Jack flags and sang a joyous rendition of the Sash as Springfield Road protestors stood silently at the other side of the barrier.

Speaking after the protest, Springfield Road Residents’ Association spokesman Sean Paul O’Hare said that he was delighted by the dignity and restraint demonstrated by the residents of the Springfield Road. But he added that he was disappointed by the original ruling that such a provocative march could be allowed along the Springfield Road.

“Meaningful dialogue needs to be put in place so that this matter can once and for all be resolved,” he said.

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

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