10 September 2005

Parade security operation begins


A major security operation is under way ahead of the re-routed Whiterock parade in Belfast.

The city's most senior police officer has said he fears loyalist paramilitaries may cause trouble at the march.

Marchers are barred from going through security gates on Springfield Road.

Meanwhile, a van has been hijacked in north Belfast. It was taken at Ohio Street, but recovered a short time later. No-one was injured.

After a request by unionists on Friday, the Parades Commission reviewed its ruling on the Whiterock Parade, but did not change it.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland appealed to community representatives to prevent tensions rising at the Orange Order parade.

"I am concerned tomorrow may bring some disorder, but I am also hopeful that common sense will prevail," he said.

It was re-routed by the Parades Commission through the former Mackies site instead of Workman Avenue, off the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.

A feeder march on "a non-contentious part" of the road has been allowed by the commission.

Mr McCausland said their role was to police the commission's determination but that tensions surrounding the parade have "no policing solution".

On Friday, Springfield Road at Lanark Way was closed for a time as loyalists protested the re-routing for a third day.

In a statement, the Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge said "in spite of all the risks taken," the Orangemen were "faced with a further attempt to humiliate and suppress their culture".

It said nationalist and republicans would come to understand that "exercising a cultural veto" through their "Parades Commission puppets" would not be allowed to continue "without consequences".

DUP leader Ian Paisley and the UUP's Sir Reg Empey have met with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde about the parade route.

Dr Uprichard said the commission's ruling should be abided

They submitted what they said was new evidence to the Parades Commission, asking the body to review its decision, but their request was refused.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Harry Prichard has urged both marchers and protesters to abide by the commission's ruling.

"I understand that there are many concerns and worries about freedom to express culture, to achieve justice and equality and about human rights," he said.

Earlier, Sean Paul O'Hare from the Springfield Residents Group said tension in the area was high.

"People need to take a step back. They need to look, in terms of their language and they need to appeal for calm," he said.

The Orange Order first shelved the re-routed parade in June, which had been opposed by nationalist Springfield Road residents. It was re-scheduled for Saturday, but again restricted.

In its determination on the march, the Parades Commission cited "a possible adverse effect on community relations" if the march was allowed on the Order's preferred route.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether or not restrictions should be imposed on controversial parades during Northern Ireland's marching season.

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