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Saturday, July 10, 1999 Published at 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK


Community split over Orange route change

The peak of the Orange marching season is on 12 July

A decision allowing Orangemen to march close to a nationalist area in south Belfast has received a mixed response.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission had banned the traditional 12 July march from going down the Lower Ormeau Road.

The Search for Peace
But it agreed on Saturday to a revised route that would pass through loyalist areas and finish in Ormeau Park - which is in view of the nationalist community.

The decision angered nationalist politicians but was welcomed by unionists.

The BBC's Denis Murray: "It appears to be a complete u-turn"
South Belfast SDLP Assembly member Carmel Hanna said although she had not read the text of the commission's ruling, she was "very disappointed".

"Tens of thousands of Orangemen will be congregating in close proximity to Ormeau Bridge," she said.

"The Orange Order have contrived this situation by rerouting themselves away from their original non-contentious route."

'Inexplicable decision'

Unionists, however, believe the decision could improve relationships between the Protestant community and the Parades Commission.

Northern Ireland's First Minister David Trimble is pleased at the decision but critical of the commission's handling of the issue to date.

[ image: David Trimble: Commission has mishandled key parades]
David Trimble: Commission has mishandled key parades
"The decision to prevent the Ballynafeigh District from passing along the Ormeau Road this year was inexplicable," said the Ulster Unionist Party leader.

"However, the ruling preventing the Belfast County Parade passing along Sunnyside Street and the Ormeau Road to Ormeau Park, was completely ridiculous," Mr Trimble added.

"The manner in which the commission has mishandled so many other key parades decisions is clear evidence that such draconian public order powers cannot be left in the hands of an unaccountable quango."

The Orange Order also welcomed the news, saying their members were looking forward to a peaceful day in Ormeau Park.

Route switch

The new route will see Orangemen marching to the park from the mainly loyalist Ravenhill Road.

[ image: The new route around Ormeau Park]
The new route around Ormeau Park
It was tabled following discussions between Belfast County Grand Lodge, local politicians and the Parades Commission on Friday night.

Earlier the commission ruled out an application for Orangemen to march to the park from the upper section of the Ormeau Road.

The lodge normally holds its rally outside Belfast in the village of Edenderry. But it switched to Ormeau Park this year after the Parades Commission banned Ballynafeigh Orangemen from marching down the Lower Ormeau Road.

[ image: Alastair Graham:
Alastair Graham: "Commission did not bow to pressure"
Commission chairman Alastair Graham said the Orange Order had now addressed key issues.

He denied the commission had reversed its previous decision in the face of pressure.

"We have not rolled over as a result of pressure."

Gerard Rice, spokesman for a residents' group called the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, appealed for a peaceful parade.

"We are calling upon unionist politicians and the Orange Order leadership to deliver on the commitment that they have made and to live up to their responsibilities to ensure that the day passes off peacefully," he said.

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