Unionists furious after contentious Whiterock parade to be re-routed
A controversial Twelfth of July parade in west Belfast has been re-routed, causing fury among band members.
The parade on Belfast's Springfield Road has frequently been a source of tension between the bands and nationalist demonstrators.
The Parades Commission has ruled the march - which typically features 950 participants and 16 bands - cannot pass through the flashpoint peace line of the Workman Avenue gates over fears it would spark riots with protesters.
A similar restriction was applied to the Whiterock parade on June 24 which passed off without incident.
Last year the June parade was re-routed, but the July parade was allowed to pass through Workman Avenue.
North Belfast Ulster Unionist spokesperson Robert Foster slammed the latest ruling, claiming it has rewarded the bad behaviour of protesters.
"Once again the Parades Commission has arrived at a determination that defies logic and is completely unfair," Mr Foster said.
"The two Whiterock and West Belfast lodges have traditionally processed along the Springfield Road and turned through the Workman Avenue gates to join the main feeder parade which then makes its way down to Clifton Street to join the main demonstration.
"As a member of West Belfast LOL 739, I can say with certainty that both lodges and accompanying bands have faithfully obeyed all previous determinations by the Parades Commission, and this year their reward has been to be re-routed through the Mackies site. This is particularly hard to take given that last year republicans flouted the determination and staged a protest by the gates.
"Once again bad behaviour has been rewarded and good behaviour has been punished. This decision further calls into question the role of the Parades Commission. It appears to me that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution."
However, Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann called it a "vindication" for residents.
Mr McCann responded: "The determination, which prohibits the Orange Order from passing through the gates at Workman's Avenue, is a welcome one and a vindication of the residents' position.
"The local residents have sought dialogue to address the issues surrounding this parade but to no avail.
"Without dialogue there could be no agreement and the Parades Commission have recognised this." In its ruling the Parades watchdog cited a lack of communication between communities, stating it was "opposed by nationalist residents' groups and political representatives".
It banned parade members from wearing paramilitary-style clothing and displaying flags and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation.