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The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Belfast
"One of the marching season's familiar potential flash points"
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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Apprentice Boys' march restricted
Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys march on the Ormeau Road
Appentice Boys have restrictions placed on parade
The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has prohibited a Protestant loyal order march from passing through a mainly nationalist area of Belfast on Saturday.

The Apprentice Boys of Derry had applied to march along the lower Ormeau Road before travelling to Londonderry, for the organisation's main annual parade.

On Wednesday the commission ruled that the parade would be prohibited from crossing Ormeau Bridge and into the lower Ormeau Road area of south Belfast.

In its determination, the commission said it had invited two mediators to enter into talks with the Apprentice Boys and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) group.

They have been asked to seek a deal about which Apprentice Boys parades should be allowed along the lower Ormeau Road in the period through to December 2002.

"The commission must have regard to the impact of its decisions on the wider community," its statement said.

Anti-loyalist sign in the the lower Ormeau Road
Ormeau residents voted against loyal order marches

"It wants to help create the right atmosphere for genuine dialogue.

"The commission hopes that this will clear the way for genuine dialogue leading to agreement about the longer term."

It said an unofficial referendum conducted in the Lower Ormeau last week, which found 90% opposition to loyal order parades, was not a determining factor.

Parade decision welcomed

LOCC spokesman Gerard Rice welcomed the decision but said the result of the poll would not be used as a hindrance to talks.

"I think the next step for us all is for the Apprentice Boys to sit down with ourselves and help build a process that we can all have confidence in.

"What we have seen in the past is processes that no one has had any confidence in.

"What the Apprentice Boys need to do now is sit down with the LOCC and with the third party and work out and construct a proper process that delivers the best potential for a resolution," he said.

But Apprentice Boys Governor Alistair Simpson said was "bitterly disappointed" with the Parades Commission decison.

He said the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys had been talking continuously to the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community group.

But Mr Simpson said he was hopeful that an Apprentice Boys parade would be allowed along the lower Ormeau Road later in the year

Alistair Simpson
Alistair Simpson: "Bitterly disappointed" over decision

The Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys in Belfast said they were considering the decision.

Meanwhile, further negotiations about the main Apprentice Boys demonstration in Derry are set to resume later on Wednesday.

The talks involving the nationalist Bogside Residents' Group in Derry and the Apprentice Boys are being facilitated by the Town Centre Management Group.

One of the main items on the agenda is the routes of feeder parades, including the march on the Ormeau Road.

Talks last week broke up before an agreement could be reached.

Spokesman for the group Donncha MacNiallais had called on the Ormeau Ballynafeigh lodge of the Apprentice Boys to come straight to Derry for the commemorations, instead of first marching along the lower Ormeau Road.

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.

Bogside residents spokesman Donncha MacNiallais
Donncha MacNiallais: Ormeau agreement would impact on Derry
In previous years, business leaders in Derry have been successful in helping the two sides come to agreement.

But last August, in the absence of agreement, the Derry and Belfast Apprentice Boys marches were given the go-ahead by the commission.

There were scuffles and minor injuries on the Ormeau Road after nationalists attempted to block the march route and in Derry some businesses were damaged during disturbances in the city centre.

Restrictions on feeder parades

Meanwhile, 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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