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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Contentious parades pass off peacefully
Apprentice Boys'  Ormeau march is opposed by nationalists
Ormeau march is opposed by nationalists
Two contentious Protestant Apprentice Boys parades in Belfast have passed off peacefully.

The start of the north Belfast parade on Monday had been delayed by a bomb alert.

A controlled explosion was carried out on an object found behind an advertising hoarding at the junction of the Crumlin and Woodvale Roads.

It was later declared a hoax.

A group of nationalists, who were protesting at the march by the Ligoniel Walkers Club, were moved away from Ardoyne shops because of the alert.

It is wrong, it shouldn't be happening and it shouldn't be allowed

Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein

Another feeder parade on the lower Ormeau Road was re-routed by the Parades Commission.

It passed off peacefully.

Security operations got under way ahead of the two contentious parades.

The Protestant Apprentice Boys parade past the flashpoint area in north Belfast was given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission.

Sinn Fein described the march past the mainly republican Ardoyne area as provocative.

Catholic area

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said he was unhappy the march was allowed to go through the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

"I am relieved that it has passed off peacefully, but the problem is that they do not have to do this.

"The march isn't down this road. The march is in Belfast or usually it is somewhere in Derry.

"They could go to it the same as everyone else - on buses - but they feel that they should march through a Catholic area on their way to it.

"It is wrong, it shouldn't be happening and it shouldn't be allowed."

However, Apprentice Boys governor Alastair Simpson said they had shown dignity and respect.

"The protesters there call for parity of esteem, but then they are shouting abuse where is the parity of esteem there?"

Serious rioting by republicans followed a loyal order parade past the Ardoyne shops area last July.
Gerard Rice:
Gerard Rice: "Residents have welcomed the decision"

The Ormeau parade in south Belfast has been controversial for the last 10 years.

The Parades Commission ruled the march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry would not be allowed to cross the Ormeau Bridge from the upper part of the Ormeau Road into the mainly Catholic lower Ormeau area.

The commission said that in making its decision, it had paid particular attention to the fact that this year marked the 10th anniversary of the Sean Graham betting shop murders.

In February 1992, loyalist gunmen burst into the bookmaker's shop on the lower Ormeau Road and shot dead five people inside.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed the attack was in retaliation for the IRA murder of eight Protestants at Teebane in County Tyrone.

The Parades Commission said it "frequently received representations about sensitive sites of memorials or tragic events and tries to take note of these".

'Transparent and consistent'

Last year, the commission gave permission for the Apprentice Boys' Ormeau parade to go ahead along the contentious route, but it was called off because of the foot-and-mouth disease restrictions.

The parade had been barred from the area for the previous two years.

Tommy Cheevers of Apprentice Boys Belfast Walkers Club accused the Parades Commission of "inconsistency" over the decision.

Tommy Cheevers:
Tommy Cheevers: "The commission has showed inconsistency"

He said: "The reaction of the club is obviously one of disappointment, given that we have a Parades Commission which says it will be accountable, transparent and consistent.

"They allowed us to go down the Ormeau Road last Easter Monday."

But spokesman for the nationalist lower Ormeau Concerned Community residents' group Gerard Rice, said people living in the area were "relieved that the Parades Commission has finally acknowledged the special sensitivities in the lower Ormeau arsing out of the violence of the last 30 years".

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"The army carried out a controlled explosion"
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly:
"I am relieved that it has passed off peacefully"
BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"A bomb alert created tension before the parade started"
See also:

25 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Marching to the beat of optimism
16 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Challenge to Kilkeel parade dismissed
06 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Green light for contentious parade
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