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Ban on Whiterock parade passing Belfast peace line is branded 'ridiculous'

By Aaron Tinney

The controversial Whiterock parade has again been banned from passing through a republican stronghold amid fears that it would prompt a riot by scores of protestors.

A Parades Commission decision announced yesterday ruled that Saturday's event will not be able to cross the Workman's Avenue peace line gates in west Belfast.

The marching watchdog also declared a republican protest against the 950-strong parade should be limited to 100 people. Its decision was last night lambasted as "ridiculous", "nonsensical" and "IRA appeasement" by the DUP and Orange Order supporters.

But Sinn Fein welcomed it as "fair and balanced".

DUP councillor Frank McCoubrey said: "In repeating last year's ridiculous determination, it is clear once again that the Parades Commission seeks to reward those who object to parades taking place and who have previously breached determinations.

"In 2015 when a restricted number of participants were allowed through the gates at Workman Avenue, the parade passed off peacefully.

"The lack of any openness or transparency on the part of the Commission of course means they do not provide any proper justification or explanation for their illogical decisions."

Around 950 participants, 16 bands and an array of supporters are to join this year's Whiterock parade, which was set to travel from West Belfast Orange Hall from 2.15pm, before moving along the Shankill Road, Ainsworth Avenue and Workman Avenue, finishing at 4.30pm.

Instead the parade has been ordered to proceed from Workman Avenue to Woodvale Avenue.

The full march used to pass through the Workman Avenue gates until 2006, after which only 50 people were allowed through.

West Belfast's Ulster Political Research Group, which provides political advice to the UDA, was among the droves of critics of the Parades Commission decision.

Using Facebook to vent its outrage, the group called it "PIRA appeasement".

Orangeman Dale Pankhurst wrote on the social network: "Another ridiculous determination issued by the Parades Commission on the Whiterock parade. Their decisions lack sense and are damaging."

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann was among republicans who welcomed the determinations.

The West Belfast MLA said: "It is a fair and balanced determination that deals with the restrictions campaigned for by local residents while also affording the Orange Order the right to parade down part of the Springfield Road."

The Parades Commission said it put restrictions on Saturday's march because of factors including 'lack of communication' from its organiser.

It also warned Whiterock paraders not to display paramilitary-linked emblems or flags, or celebrate UVF killer Brian Robinson.

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