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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK


Anger over Orange march route ban

Last year's protest by residents over the Orange parade

Orangemen and unionist politicians have reacted angrily to the decision by the Parades Commission to re-route an Orange Order parade away from a nationalist area.

The Search for Peace
It is the first time the parade by the Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge has been stopped from marching past the Ormeau Bridge in central Belfast on the Orangemen's traditional marching day, 12 July.

The decision by the Parades Commission to ban the Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge parade from the mainly nationalist Lower Ormeau Road has provided the background for a severe unionist backlash.

"It's obviously one of considerable disappointment and considerable anger," said Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge District Master, Noel Liggett, describing the reaction of Orangemen to the decision.

"We actively engaged in dialogue this year and they turned around and said no," he added.

DUP assembly member, Nigel Dodds, was incensed by the ruling. "The Parades Commission has shown itself to be out of touch, out of ideas and it should be thrown out of office," he said.

'Insufficient dialogue'

The continuing protest at Drumcree has been marred by scuffles at the site where hundreds of Orangemen have gathered in the continuing protest over the banning of their traditional parade from returning to Portadown via the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

About 150 protesters broke away from the main group, leading to a charge by police. There were no reports of injuries or plastic baton rounds being fired.

The Parades Commission ruled that the Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge had not sufficiently engaged in dialogue with the Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group (Lorag) to seek a resolution to the dispute.

"At this time, the commission does not have any evidence to suggest that there has been sufficient attempt to address legitimate concerns, and a preparedness to accommodate those concerns where it is within their power to do so," its ruling said.

Denis Murray in Belfast: "The decision pleased the Catholic residents"
The commission has serious concerns about the "potential for public disorder or damage to property should this parade proceed along the Lower Ormeau without local accommodation".

It also expressed concern that the residents had notified a protest parade to coincide with the Orange procession. The residents have now scrapped their parade.

Lorag spokesman Gerard Rice urged the Orangemen to respond to repeated calls for dialogue from the residents. "There must be sustained and genuine dialogue to redress the hurt that has been caused by the parades over many years."

Black flag protest

The Parades Commission recognised that there are communications between the two groups. In its ruling it states that Lorag wishes to engage in face-to-face talks after two days of proximity meetings while the Orange representatives want a longer period before direct talks begin.

Ireland Correspondent Tom Coulter: "There will be a great deal of anger among Orange circles"
Other Orange lodges have said they will march to the Ormeau Bridge with their Ballynafeigh brethren to show solidarity.

Fears that the Drumcree parade re-routing would lead to violence have so far been unfounded. Security sources are hoping that the Orange protest will be similarly peaceful.

The Orangemen's aim had been to march from their hall in Ballynafeigh and through the mainly nationalist Lower Ormeau Road to join the main Orange parade in Belfast city centre.

Last year the parade passed peacefully with a minimal police presence separating Orangemen and protesting residents, who lined one side of the street holding black flags as the parade passed.

[ image: The site of the 1992 massacre]
The site of the 1992 massacre
The black flag protest was a reference to the three Quinn boys. They were murdered in what the police said was a sectarian arson attack on their home in Ballymoney, County Antrim, in the early hours of 12 July.

The march became a watershed event in 1992 when trouble broke out between marchers and local residents.

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 Catholics were gunned down in a betting shop by loyalist paramilitaries because of their religion.

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