Belfast Telegraph

Lodges will face even more bans if they continue to flout rulings

Pressure grows to strike a deal with residents

BY LIAM CLARKE

Orange Order tactics of flouting parade rulings are likely to result in further restrictions on two key Belfast marches next year, it can be revealed.

The two threatened routes are at Ardoyne shops and along Donegall Street, past St Patrick's Catholic church.

If agreement cannot be reached with locals the parades are likely to be either rerouted, in the case of Donegall Street, or halted in the case of Ardoyne.

Lesser restrictions – for instance on bands or supporters – cannot, it is felt, be enforced.

"It would not be wise to 'take out' a band or to intervene to make them change the music they were playing," a source said.

The source added: "Little can be done concerning a breach on the day of the event but follow-up prosecutions can take time. The general public need to see – as in the flag protests – consequences for breaking the law.

"The only determination which the police appear to be able to enforce on the day of the event is a route restriction; this does not bode well for the future as far as parading organisations are concerned."

Yesterday the Parades Commission, which rules on contentious marches, sought to avoid this by once again urging local dialogue to settle disputes in north Belfast. The Commission cited the example of Londonderry, a majority nationalist city where loyal order marches were once fiercely contested but now proceed with local agreement.

"In Belfast a similar example of leadership and dialogue is needed," it stated. It said that an "encouraging initiative embarked on six days before the 12th was too little, too late to have any real impact on the outcome".

It added: "In our determination we set out a clear route map for Ardoyne which we hope people will come back to. Dialogue needs to start now, looking at the rest of this summer and ahead to 2014." The determination had allowed five Orange lodges to parade past the Ardoyne shops in the morning but had limited the number of supporters.

It stipulated "in the event of the loyal orders respecting this determination and in the event of sustained and sincere dialogue, we expect any future commission will look favourably upon the notification for the evening return parade on July 12, 2014".

However the ruling was flouted when a larger number of supporters joined the parade carrying a banner. In the evening the return parade was halted in the loyalist Woodvale area but some of those taking part refused to disperse and rioting ensued.

Sources say that if there is no agreement on the parade, and no consent by the Orange Order to conditions based on their parades, the only restriction which the police can enforce on the day is a rerouting.

In Donegall Street a band flouted this year's determination by playing The Sash, an Orange anthem, instead of hymn music or a single drumbeat when passing St Patrick's church. Rev Mervyn Gibson, an Orange chaplain, justified this on the grounds that the church was empty at the time.

However, yesterday a Parades Commission statement stressed that an agreed outcome was still possible.

"If there is a genuine willingness to talk we can break the cycle of pain and blame," it said.

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