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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Ruling delayed on NI parade
The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has delayed a ruling on Saturday's proposed march by the Protestant Apprentice Boys through a nationalist area of Belfast.
The Apprentice Boys want to march along the lower Ormeau Road before travelling to Londonderry, for the group's annual parade marking the 1689 relief of the city from a siege by the forces of the Catholic King James II.
The commission delayed its decision, which was expected on Monday, until Wednesday because the body has received further representations.
The commission has also delayed ruling on the main parade in Derry, as talks between the Apprentice Boys - brokered by the Town Centre Management Group - are due to continue on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the commission said: "We have received representations in the last 24 hours. The position is being very carefully assessed but there will be no determination before Wednesday."
Last August the Derry and Belfast Apprentice Boys marches were given the go-ahead by the commission.
However, there were scuffles and minor injuries on the Ormeau Road after nationalists attempted to block the route of the parade.
Spokesman for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community group, Gerard Rice, said he remained optimistic that this Saturday's event would be restricted.
"We're not surprised the decision was delayed," he said. "But we would be absolutely shocked and dismayed if the parade was allowed to go ahead."
Talks between the Apprentice Boys and the nationalist Bogside Residents' Group in Derry have so far failed to reach agreement over Saturday's parade in the city.
Both the Bogside residents and Apprentice Boys have said they want to find agreement, but the residents' group has said its response to the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry will be dictated by what happens on the lower Ormeau Road.
In previous years, business leaders in Derry have been successful in helping the two sides come to agreement.
However, last August some businesses were damaged during disturbances in the city centre.
A decision from the commission on the main parade in Derry, which skirts the nationalist Bogside area, is also expected later in the week.
He said: "It's not as if this is a parade totally unconnected with the Derry situation.
"And if, as the Apprentice Boys Association will tell you, they exist to commemorate the Siege of Derry, what we're saying is that by all means lets have the commemoration of the siege in Derry itself.
"And let the Apprentice Boys get on their buses and come directly to Derry."
He said agreement on the Ormeau parade would facilitate an accommodation which would acknowledge the rights of the Apprentice Boys of Derry association in Derry itself.
"I think the people of this city can turn round and say over the last five years that we have been going in the right direction," he said.
"The Apprentice Boys are doing all they can for a peaceful day, not only here but in the rest of Northern Ireland."
Dawn Purvis, a member of the Progressive Unionist Party in south Belfast said a decision was needed from the commission as soon as possible.
"A delay causes greater anxiety within the Walker Club (a branch of the Apprentice Boys)," she said.
The Parades Commission has imposed restrictions on a number of Apprentice Boys feeder parades planned for Saturday.
Among those affected are Bellaghy, County Londonderry, Dunloy, County Antrim and Castlederg, County Tyrone.
Issuing a number of determinations on Monday, the commission also placed route restrictions on an Orange Order parade in Portadown, County Armagh, on Sunday.
Some conditions have been placed on a nationalist march in Lurgan on Friday.
The Northern Ireland Parades Commission was established in 1997 to determine whether conditions should be placed on contentious parades in Northern Ireland.
The new commissioners were appointed in February under new chairman Tony Holland, a prominent solicitor and former ombudsman.
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