05 June 2006

Troubled parades body to rule on Whiterock

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
05 June 2006

The Orange parade that sparked widespread loyalist rioting last autumn has been scheduled for the last Saturday in this month - with the Parades Commission due to rule on it in the aftermath of its membership crisis.

Last year's Whiterock parade was initially postponed and eventually led to serious disorder - including a gun attack on police - when it was rescheduled for September.

More than 80 officers were injured and Orangemen have privately acknowledged that the episode caused significant damage to the organisation.

Talks between marchers and the representatives of residents who oppose the June 24 parade have reportedly taken place under Community Relations Council chief Duncan Morrow, but there have been no indications yet that a resolution will be reached.

The Commission is due to discuss the parade next Wednesday, by which time the Court of Appeal should have decided whether it is lawful for Orangemen to serve on the parades body.

Last month, the High Court removed David Burrows from the Commission, ruling the NIO had failed to follow proper procedures in appointing him and another Orangeman.

The ruling left the way open for Mr Burrows to be reappointed, but Portadown's Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition argued in the Court of Appeal last week that no Orangeman should be on the Commission because of a conflict of interest.

The appeal court's decision is expected this week. Regardless of who rules on the parade, Whiterock is now recognised as one of the most contentious in the marching calendar.

This year the Orange Order has cut the size of the march by more than 10% - although it is still expected to involve 750 people and 16 bands.

For years, nationalist residents have sought to have the parade rerouted away from the Springfield Road, which is on the nationalist side of the peaceline.

West Belfast Orangemen want to march onto the road through Workman Avenue.

Last year, there were suggestions a deal might be close, but reports of contact between the Orange Order and residents were denounced by senior members of the Order.

The Commission then rerouted the marchers through an old industrial site, former home of the Mackies plant.

Furious Orangemen called off the parade and tried to restage it in September.

When the Commission stuck to their original determination, rioting broke out during the parades.

Loyalist paramilitaries appeared to have orchestrated the attacks - including the appearance of a gunman who shot at police from the Highfield estate -but police filmed Orangemen taking part in the violence.

The unrest spread to other parts of Belfast, with commuter routes being blocked intermittently over several days.

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