Belfast Telegraph

Republican band parade rerouted as tensions rise

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A contentious republican march — rerouted by the Parades Commission over fears it could spark more violence in Belfast — has been condemned as “provocative and confrontational”.

The parade through the north of the city will take place at the same time as a loyal order march nearby, prompting concerns of sectarian clashes.

The Parades Commission yesterday imposed restrictions on the republican march, taking it away from a flashpoint area.

The commission said it was vital for restrictions to be put on the parade, organised by the Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band, to prevent a repeat of recent rioting.

It has been blocked from marching along Clifton Street and through the Carrick Hill area.

Loyalists described the republican march as a “counter-parade” and accused organisers of attempting to stir up tensions.

A protest against the march by the Greater Concerned Residents Group Belfast at Clifton Street has been restricted to just 10 people. Another protest group, Concerned Residents Group Shankill, was also restricted to just 10 people at the same location.

The decision to reroute the parade follows rioting in the city centre last Friday when 56 police officers were injured by loyalists during an anti-internment rally.

PUP spokesman Winston Irvine criticised the republican parade’s organisers for planning the event on the same day as a loyal order march, Sunday, August 25.

“In our opinion (it is) a very provocative and confrontational parade and that's been proven last year.

“This is a parade that coincides with a Royal Black Preceptory church parade. This is designed to further heighten tension and to stir up sectarian strife,” he said

The commission said paramilitary-style clothing and symbols of illegal organisations cannot be displayed.

On Wednesday, the commission restricted the loyal order parade on the same day.

Four districts of the Grand Black Chapter will pass St Patrick’s Church in Donegall Street. Two bands taking part must play only hymns past the church, and supporters can not accompany the parade along that stretch of the route.

Around 150 nationalists will protest against the march.

On August 25 last year a parade by the Royal Black institution was marred by violence which broke out close to the church.

Meanwhile, a loyalist parade on Friday, August 23 through the mainly nationalist village of Rasharkin in Co Antrim has also had restrictions placed on it.

Background

500 people including seven bands will take part in the parade organised by the Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band. The Parades Commission yesterday restricted the number of loyalist protesters and also blocked the march from passing the Carrick Hill and Clifton Street areas.

On the same day, a loyal order march will take place nearby.

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