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Apprenctice Boys' spokesman Tommy Cheevers
"It should be about accommodation of all other's cultural expressions"
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Residents' spokesman Gerard Rice
"There's a feeling throughout the community of absolute shock"
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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Green light for contentious parade
Apprentice Boys'  Ormeau march re-routed again
Apprentice Boys' Ormeau march was re-routed last year
The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has given the go-ahead for a contentious march by the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry on Easter Monday.

The Belfast Walker Club of the Apprentice Boys is being allowed to march along the mainly nationalist lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, for the first time in nearly two years.

The parade, which is opposed by nationalist residents, will kick off the loyalist marching season.

Fifty members and one band will take part in the parade but the commission has forbidden any music to be played between the two bridges on the Ormeau road.

In its ruling on Friday, the commission said that since the last parade in August 1999, there had been "clear evidence of considerable efforts" by the Apprentice Boys to reach agreement with the residents' group, the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC).

Resolution

It said the LOCC had, in turn, engaged in dialogue with them which had been "sustained and meaningful, notwithstanding spasmodic breaks".

The commission added: "It is regrettable that it has not produced agreement or acquiescence.

"With regard to this decision, the commission stresses that it provides no guarantees for the future.

"The commission will continue to look for evidence of ongoing commitment by LOCC and the Apprentice Boys to find their own resolution to the local issues on the Ormeau Road."

Tommy Cheevers: Call for peace
Tommy Cheevers: Call for peace

Apprentice Boys' spokesman Tommy Cheevers said they were disppointed that agreement had not been reached with the residents.

"This is the second time in five years that we will have managed to parade along our traditional route on the Ormeau Road," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"We would just ask that everybody accepts the rule of law, as we have had to do in the past when it went against us, and make sure it is peaceful."

However, the ruling was criticised by LOCC spokesman Gerard Rice.

Ban on march

He said he was "absolutely shocked" by the decision, adding he had already asked the Parades Commission for for it to be reviewed.

"We believe this was the wrong decision," he said.

"We will ask the Parades Commission to overturn this decision. Failing that, we may go to the courts and ask for a judicial review."

The residents' group is to meet the commission on Monday evening to discuss the ruling.

Last year the chairman of the Parades Commission praised the behaviour of the Apprentice Boys, after they abided by the decision barring their parade from the lower Ormeau Road.

However, there have been violent confrontations at previous parades.

The Parades Commission was established in 1997 to determine whether conditions should be placed on contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

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See also:

17 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Parade restrictions follow tension
06 Aug 99 | Northern Ireland
Parades dispute flares up in Belfast
15 Aug 98 | Latest News
Apprentice Boys agree to 11th hour talks
09 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Apprentice Boys' march restricted
24 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Marchers praised by Commission
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