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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK

Special Report

Parades dispute flares up in Belfast

The 14 August parade is the main Apprentice Boys march

A nationalist community group has said that the Apprentice Boys loyal order has rejected a compromise offer to allow a disputed parade to go ahead in Belfast.

The Lower Ormeau Concerned Community proposed that the Apprentice Boys should be allowed to march across the Ormeau Bridge flashpoint during their August 14 parade.

But the group proposed that the parade would then be re-routed along the River Lagan embankment away from the mainly nationalist Lower Ormeau Road area.

'Genuine offer'

LOCC spokesman Gerard Rice said that their offer had been ''significant and genuine''.

John Gormley: We don't want winners and losers
He said: ''This is the first time that Lower Ormeau residents have offered any of the loyal orders a routes across the Ormeau Bridge and onto any part of the Lower Ormeau Road.

"We are disappointed and angry that the Apprentice Boys have rejected out offer out of hand.''

Mr Rice said that the offer was made in an attempt to ''protect the process of dialogue that has been going on between the LOCC and the Apprentice Boys for some weeks''.

Another spokesman for the residents, John Gormley, said they regretted that the decision would now go to the Parades Commission after the failure to find agreement.

'Local agreement hoped for'

He said: ''We had hoped to avoid this going to the Parades Commission at all. We had hoped for a local agreement here that would allow us to move into the Autumn and winter with both sides still being able to show the benefits of dialogue

"Once it goes to the Parades Commission it seems clear that somebody has to be the loser in this and that is not a good scenario

"Clearly there is a danger for our community that a parade would be forced down the road and we would regard that as a very wrong position."

Contacts with Derry group

Meanwhile in Londonderry, the Apprentice Boys and the nationalist residents Group, the Bogside residents have met to discuss a dispute parade to be held on 14 August.

The meeting on Wednesday night was brokered by members of the business community who fear that the tension surrounding annual Apprentice Boys parade will heighten sectarian feelings in the city.

But Gerard Rice said that his Ormeau group would now contact the Bogside Residents in Derry to discuss what he called the Apprentice Boys 'not and inch attitude' and ''the failure to reach agreement on the Lower Ormeau Road''.

The Apprentice Boys have not yet commented on the proposal.

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