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MP Martin Smyth:
"Poll has been organised to rally opposition to loyal order parades"
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 21:08 GMT 22:08 UK
Accusations over parade ballot
It is understood loyalist residents have not been asked to vote
Lyalist residents have not been asked to vote
An Ulster Unionist MP has accused organisers of a secret ballot on contentious parades of trying to stage manage its result.

South Belfast MP the Reverend Martin Smyth has said the poll of the lower Ormeau Road residents on Thursday night, was designed to show that the people who live there do not want loyalist order marches through the area.

Questions were also raised about the format of the survey drawn up by the Lower Ormeau Concern Community Residents group (LOCC), who oppose parades, and because residents from loyalist streets were not invited to vote.

South Belfast UUP MP
Martin Smyth: "This is a stage managed exercise"
Mr Smyth said: "I think this is a stage managed exercise to show how well they can conduct their business in that area and to gather support from those who don't want a procession down that road."

However, spokesman for the LOCC, Gerard Rice rejected the suggestions that it was unrepresentative because loyalist areas had been left out.

"This is to gauge opinion in this area that is adversely affected by loyal order marches.

"We do not claim to speak on behalf of people from the Holy Land area or Donegal Pass," he said.

Another LOCC representative, John Gormley, said they would welcome equivalent ballots from the loyalist Ormeau community.

LOCC spokesman Gerard Rice:
Gerard Rice: "We do not claim to speak for loyalist residents"
The ballot which was held the Shaftsbury Recreation centre off the lower Ormeau Road from 1600 BST to 2000 BST asked four questions, with subsections on loyalist parades along the lower Ormeau Road.

It asked whether various marches should be allowed through or should be re-routed.

It also asked for views on loyal order emblems, bands and music.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Sean Hayes dismissed Mr Smyth's view that the questions were being asked to gain a predetermined result.

He said: "There is scrutiny committee down there headed by the local parish priest who will explain any questions to people who are having problems about what the question means.

Father Curran:
Father Curran: "I am here to oversee the voting is fair"
"But I think it is clear enough. There are a number of sub-issues all about the marching issue."

Local lower Ormeau parish priest Father Anthony Curran, who oversaw the voting, said people could be assured it was independently monitored.

He said that "a large section of the community young, old and sick" came out to vote.

"People could expect that I would oversee that it was done freely, fairly, transparently and without fear," he said.

A similar poll was last conducted in the Lower Ormeau area in 1995 by management consultants Coopers and Lybrand, when a large majority voted against allowing loyalist marches in the area.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has barred the Orange Order from marching through the lower Ormeau area during its Twelfth of July demonstrations for two years.

In response, the Order moved its main Twelfth rally site to the nearby Ormeau Park to support the Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge, which was not been allowed to march into lower Ormeau.

There were disturbances during an Apprentice Boys parade on the lower Ormeau Road in August last year, after the police removed protesters from the road.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Threats precede parades vote
07 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Orangemen to hold Ormeau rally
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Ban on flashpoint Orange march
13 Jul 99 | Northern Ireland
Parades Commission takes flak
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