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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 June, 2004, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Parade passes off peacefully
The parade passed off peacefully
The parade passed off peacefully

People protesting over a decision to allow contentious Orange Order parade in Belfast have blocked one of the city's main roadways.

The entire Westlink dual-carriageway was closed for a short time on Saturday afternoon because of the demonstration.

However, the annual Whiterock parade passed off peacefully.

A number of other roads in the city were also closed for a time.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde had visited the area to see the security operation which had been put in place.

The lower half of the Springfield Road had been cordoned off by police dressed in riot gear - to the anger of hundreds of nationalists.

The bands abided by the Parade's Commission's ruling and only single drumbeats were heard as they walked out on to the Springfield Road.

Some flags were furled during the parade and there was no trouble.
Road was cordoned off by police dressed in riot gear
Road was cordoned off by police dressed in riot gear

The Parades Commission had originally barred Orangemen from walking down part of the Springfield Road during the parade.

However, on Friday it reversed that decision.

The Parades Commission had imposed its original ruling because of Ulster Volunteer Force paraphernalia on show during last year's march, and the refusal of the Orange Order to engage in dialogue with the residents.

The commission said its review considered a number of changes in the circumstances surrounding the parade which had been communicated to it in meetings with political and community representatives over the last two days.

The commission agreed to allow the parade strictly on the grounds that all paramilitary flags and emblems be removed including an Ulster Volunteer Force bannerette.

The Ballysillan Volunteers Flute Band, which it said broke last year's parades rules, were not be allowed to take part.


Residents spokesman Sean Paul O'Hare said: "We have met with residents' groups across Belfast and we had peaceful protests across Belfast.

"I think we have to express ourselves in terms of the nationalist community are absolutely outraged at this decision - it's still not making any sense to us."

Residents blocked off several roads
Residents blocked off several roads
The Reverend Norman Hamilton, who sits on the the newly formed Parades Forum, said a peaceful end to the parade must be seen as positive.

"There has been no civil unrest and there have been no interchanges between the communities as far as I'm aware," he said.

"That, of course, isn't the end of the story. In order to ensure that we don't have this massive presence on the road in future occasions, there has to be an accommodation between the two communities."

Belfast's senior police commander, Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, said both the marchers and those opposed to the parade had been "constructive and positive in their approach".

"Both communities have displayed a commitment to their responsibilities and both the parade and protest passed off peacefully. I hope this pattern continues in future weeks," he said.

The Parades Commission said it was pleased the parade and residents' protest had passed off peacefully.

"The Parades Commission is aware of community tensions surrounding its decisions on this parade, but it is confident that the significant progress which has been achieved in recent days will form the basis of a peaceful summer and a long term accommodation in Whiterock.

"The Parades Commission would like to remind the public that the documented shift in attitude of loyalists and unionists in the area, and their assurances that past breaches would not be repeated, played a central role in its decision to allow today's parade.

"The talks initiated by local residents and the Parades Forum indicate a willingness to constructively address the issue of parading in this sensitive area. The Parades Commission expects and is confident that guarantees of continued local talks will be honoured."

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey said: "The people in this city today have given the message that we will not be treated in this shameful manner."

SDLP assembly member Alasdair McDonnell said he hoped "a better method" could be found to resolve such situations.

BBC NI's Chris Buckler:
"The bands abided by the Parade's Commission's ruling"

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