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Sunday, July 12, 1998 Published at 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK

Ormeau residents 'will not block march'

Lower Ormeau Road: residents will hold a peaceful protest

Report from BBC News online in Belfast

Residents of the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast have said they will not attempt to block a controversial Orange parade through a nationalist area of Belfast.

Instead, they are planning to hold a peaceful protest on Sunday evening ahead of Monday morning's controversial Ballynafeigh Orange march.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary repsonded quickly and positively to the news. The Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast, Bill Stewart, said: "This is good news for the whole community.

"After meeting a number of public representatives and receiving assurances about the nature of the protest we have been able to begin to scale down the policing operation."

[ image: In memory of the 1992 victims]
In memory of the 1992 victims
The residents group earlier issued a statement outlining its plans. "In view of the sectarian murder of three young children the Lower Ormeau Concerned Committee has decided, as a mark of respect, to respond to tomorrow's Orange March in a silent and non-confrontational way," it said.

The group says that although it objects to the march, it will not attempt to prevent it taking place. "There will be no attempt to block the Lower Ormeau Road or to physically impede the Parade in anyway," the statement said.

The group has written to the Ballynafeigh Orangemen asking them to voluntarily re-route their march "if not out of respect for the wishes of the residents of the Lower Ormeau then out of respect for the three young children murdered in Ballymoney".

The residents say there will be a "short dignified vigil" on Sunday night.

On Monday there will be what the group calls "a silent, peaceful and non-confrontational black flag protest on the footpath on one side of the Ormeau Road as the parade passes by".

Last week the Northern Ireland High Court upheld the independent Parades Commission's ruling to allow the march to take place.

The commission ruled that the march should be through the nationalist area before 0830BST and that it must take place without music or banners.

'An absolute turning point'

The Ormeau parade is one of the most contentious of the marching season and has witnessed violent disturbances in recent years.

Orangemen from the Ballynafeigh district of Belfast pass through the nationalist Lower Ormeau area as they march from their Hall in Ballynafeigh to Belfast city centre where they aim to join the main 12 July parade, which will take place this year on 13 July as the 12th falls on a Sunday.

In 1992 this march became a watershed event as trouble broke out between marchers and local residents.

[ image: The site of the massacre]
The site of the massacre
The Lower Ormeau Road was once a staunchly Protestant area but now, at least on one side of the arterial road, it is largely Catholic.

In 1992 five local Catholics were gunned down in a betting shop by loyalist paramilitaries for no other reason than their religion.

A few months later, as the march passed through the Catholic area some loyalists and hangers-on taunted the locals and made 'five-nil' hand gestures. The BBC's Ireland Correspondent, Denis Murray, says the 1992 march was "an absolute turning point".

The parade was not allowed to through the Lower Ormeau last year although in 1996 it did pass through the nationalist area after a virtual curfew was imposed by security forces.

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