Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Loyalists to stage protest near Giro d'Italia route

Belfast is turning pink for the Giro
Belfast is turning pink for the Giro

Loyalists will stage a protest parade at a Belfast interface a mile from where the biggest sporting event in Northern Ireland's history will pass.

Approximately 140 people and two bands are due to take part in the protest march next Saturday morning, around the same time as cyclists from across the world set off on day two of the world-renowned Giro d'Italia.

They will parade along Woodvale Road in the direction of Ardoyne, with the march taking place just over a mile from where the second stage of the race takes place, including Carlisle Circus and the Antrim Road.

The parade will be staged at a time when Belfast will be screened live to a television audience of millions throughout the world.

A decision to prevent the parade from going past Ardoyne was last night welcomed by republican representatives.

Organisers filed notification of the march with the Parades Commission just last week.

It will set off at 9am from the Shankill Road and make its way along Woodvale Road.

Weekly protests have taken place in the area since July.

The applicants had wanted to proceed along Crumlin Road, past the Ardoyne shop fronts, to Ligoniel Orange hall. As the parade gets under way, Giro d'Italia cyclists will be preparing to set off on day two of the elite race, which is second only to the Tour De France in prestige.

In its determination, the Commission referred to "evidence of heightened community tensions, particularly in the run-up to the elections on May 22".

It also referenced the Giro d'Italia: "The Commission is aware of a significant and high-profile international sporting event, the Giro d'Italia, scheduled to take place on the same date as the notified parade. Evidence was submitted to the Commission in respect of the potential impacts of this parade coinciding with this major event in Belfast on the same day."

It adds: "The Commission concludes that, should this parade process the entirety of its notified route, there will be an adverse effect on community relations, significant disruption to the life of the community, and the potential for public disorder."

Sinn Fein councillor Gerard McCabe urged parade organisers to engage with nationalist residents in north Belfast.

He said he weclomed the decision to prevent marchers from proceeding past Ardoyne.

STORY SO FAR

The Giro d'Italia was previously marred by sectarian bickering, with rows over the flying of flags along the route. Alliance MLA Anna Lo was racially abused after she said political flags and murals should be removed from the course. Election posters are banned in the areas the cyclists will pass through.

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