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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Court challenge over Belfast march
Apprentice Boys'  Ormeau march re-routed again
Apprentice Boys' Ormeau march was re-routed last year
A court challenge has been mounted over a decision to allow a controversial parade to go ahead in Belfast.

Nationalist residents on the lower Ormeau Road in the city are trying to stop the Protestant Apprentice Boys organisation from walking past their homes on Easter Monday.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission ruled on the issue earlier in April and upheld its decision on appeal.

A high court judged ruled on Wednesday afternoon that the mainly Catholic residents in lower Ormeau can apply for a judicial review of the matter.

The judge is keen to hear representations from both sides and the case is due to be heard on Thursday morning.

The Apprentice Boys route was barred last year
The Apprentice Boys route was barred last year

The original decision by the commission means the Belfast Walkers Club of the Apprentice Boys will be allowed to march along the lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, for the first time in nearly two years.

Residents intend to oppose this though and their spokesman Gerard Rice has said a "determined and effective protest" will take place.

And in Londonderry the Bogside Residents' Group has warned that if the Ormeau parade goes ahead it will create difficulties for the resolution of another marching issue there.

The nationalist political parties Sinn Fein and the SDLP have also met the parades commission over the issue.

Sustained commitment

They challenged the commission's assertions that there had been "sustained and meaningful dialogue" by the Apprentice Boys.

However, the parades commission said it "appreciates the sincerity demonstrated by LOCC and the Apprentice Boys through many months of direct and indirect talks."

Gerard Rice:
Gerard Rice: "It was a political decision"
It said the Apprentice Boys had shown clear evidence of "a real attempt to address the legitimate concerns of others and a preparedness to accommodate those concerns".

"It is this sustained commitment which is of relevance... rather than the lack of success in the talks processes to date."

Violent confrontations

Fifty Apprentice Boys 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.

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
09 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Apprentice Boys' march restricted
24 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Marchers praised by Commission
06 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Green light for contentious parade
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