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Sunday, August 8, 1999 Published at 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK


Special Report

Loyalists 'will abide by parade ruling'

Agreement on the disputed marches have not yet been reached

The loyalist Apprentice Boys say they will abide by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission's ruling on a number of disputed marches planned for this week's Siege of Derry anniversary.

The Search for Peace
The commission is due to give its decision on Monday on parades in Londonderry and on Belfast's largely nationalist Lower Ormeau Road.

Nationalist residents, who have been in proximity talks with the Apprentice Boys over the routes of the marches, said the group's promise was "meaningless".


John Gormley: There should have been give and take
Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) spokesman John Gormley said the Apprentice Boys should have accepted a compromise offered by the residents, rather than rely on the Parades Commission decision.

He said: "Bland words saying they will obey the law are meaningless if they don't try to find a local resolution."

Belfast Apprentice Boys spokesman Tommy Cheevers said: "We would prefer to have a parade that was not subject to a Parades Commission ruling.

"Nevertheless we give an absolute and unequivocal undertaking to act within the law.


Tommy Cheevers: Unfair to pick out one point from meetings
"We sincerely hope the LOCC will give the same undertaking and work to avoid conflict on the Ormeau Road, whatever the Parades Commission decision."

The annual Apprentice Boys marches commemorate the 1688 Siege of Derry when Protestant apprentices shut the gates of the walled city against the forces of the Catholic King James II.

The order wants to hold their main parade in Londonderry on 14 August and talks have been getting underway with nationalist residents in a bid to reach agreement.

However, there is also dispute over a feeder parade along the Ormeau Road in Belfast the same day.

The last in a series of meetings between Apprentice Boys and the LOCC have broken down.

The LOCC said talks ended after the loyal order rejected an offer allowing them to cross the disputed Ormeau bridge flashpoint onto the Lower Ormeau Road, if they then rerouted the rest of the parade away from the area.

'Unfair focus'

The Apprentice Boys have said parades and events commemorating the Siege of Derry are "about celebration not confrontation".

Governor of the Derry Apprentice Boys, Alistair Simpson, launched the loyal order's Maiden City Festival on Friday, which will lead up to the disputed march.

He said he is looking forward to "a day free from harassment or violence".

Businessmen from the Town Centre Management Group in Londonderry have set up a talks process between the Apprentice Boys and the nationalist Bogside Residents Group.

They feared that civil unrest which has accompanied the parade in previous years could mar the image of the city and increase sectarian tensions.

'Compromise mode'

After the most recent meeting between the groups on Thursday night SDLP Mayor of Derry, Pat Ramsay, said that he is hopeful an agreement will be found.


[ image: Past tension: A policeman mans a security barrier on Derry's walls]
Past tension: A policeman mans a security barrier on Derry's walls
He said: "While there haven't been any arrangements or deals struck yet I think we are very close to it.

"We don't want to go back to the past of the violence we have seen in this city. I think people are very keen to facilitate one another and are on a compromise mode."

But the Bogside Residents Group have said they will not accept the parade in Derry unless the issue of the feeder parades leading to the main parade is resolved.



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Relevant Stories

06 Aug 99 | Northern Ireland
Parades dispute flares up in Belfast

05 Aug 99 | UK
Businessmen broker Derry march dispute talks





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