Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Green light for loyalist St Patrick’s Day parade

The Parades Commission has decided not to change its ruling, allowing a loyalist band to parade through Armagh on St Patrick’s Day.

Cormeen Rising Sons Of William have been given permission to hold a procession with 40 loyalist bands and more than 1,000 supporters.

They will march through the city on Saturday evening — just hours after an estimated 18,000 people attend the official council-run event.

But organisers of the contentious loyalist parade claimed that an offer to discuss nationalists’ concerns has been ignored.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein have criticised the decision and urged the commission yesterday to reconsider its ruling.

However, the Parades Commission said it had reviewed the information and considered all the representations submitted to it.

It added: “The oral and written representations it has received do not, on balance, warrant the imposition of further conditions on the parade.

“It has therefore decided not to amend its original determination of 8 March 2012.”

Quincey Dougan, a spokesman for the Cormeen band, insisted organisers were ready to meet nationalists to ease their concerns — but their attempts at dialogue have gone unheeded.

“We’ve heard nothing back at all,” Mr Dougan said.

“There is a fully logged list of when we have attempted contact, particularly with Sinn Fein, through phone calls and emails from March 1 and as yet they will not meet us.”

Mr Dougan described the lack of response as disappointing.

“We have made a genuine attempt to talk to anyone with concerns about the event, and it is still an open invitation,” he added. “We are ready to talk to anyone.”

Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy has described the decision to allow the loyalist march to proceed as “ridiculous”.

The parade, which can’t proceed until 7.30pm, must disperse peacefully by 10.30pm.

Background

Saturday will be the first time Cormeen Rising Sons Of William Flute Band parade will march through Armagh on St Patrick’s Day. Previous parades have taken place in neighbouring towns. The march comes just hours after the official St Patrick’s parade, which will bring thousands of visitors to the city. Concerns have been raised about its suitability.

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