Belfast Telegraph

First Minister backs Orangemen in battle over Whiterock parade decision

By David Young

First Minister Arlene Foster has spoken out to support a Belfast Orange Lodge's disagreement with the Parades Commission over a march scheduled to take place today.

Around 950 people and 16 bands are due to take part in this year's Whiterock parade, which runs from West Belfast Orange Hall along the Shankill Road, Ainsworth Avenue, Workman Avenue, and back towards the Shankill.

The Parades Commission ruled the parade could not pass through gates at Workman Avenue, and should proceed via the Invest NI site to the Springfield Road.

But the DUP First Minister spoke out and described the Parades Commission decision as both "unjustified and misguided".

"I met organisers of the No 9 district parade on Saturday and listened to their concerns about the way they have been treated by the Parades Commission," Mrs Foster explained.

"I am sympathetic to the concerns that they have raised and am of the view that the Parades Commission have been unjustified and completely misguided in not permitting some of the Orangemen from proceeding through the Workman Avenue gates."

She also accused the commission of using "irrelevant"' considerations to justify their ruling on the Orange march.

"The commission claims that what they describe as recent developments in public policy as outlined in the Fresh Start Agreement means the gates cannot be opened without cross-community support. This is not the case.

"A further reference to a committee report from the former OFMDFM committee of the Assembly is bizarre in that committees of the Assembly do not set public policy."

The First Minister said she would be writing to the commission to highlight the "flawed nature" of its decision.

At the same time, the DUP leader also called on everyone involved in the march to accept the commission's determination "until such times as the law is changed".

Belfast Telegraph

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