Loyalists say they'll defy ruling on Belfast parade
The organisers of a loyalist band parade planned for Saturday in the Whitewell area of north Belfast have said they will not follow a route set out by the Parades Commission which prevents them from marching through a nationalist area. The commission has restricted the parade by the Whitewell Defenders Flute Band to the loyalist Graymount and White City areas of the city.
The ruling prevents the parade from passing St Gerard's Catholic Church and a number of nationalist areas in the Antrim and Serpentine Roads.
The announcement by the organisers of the parade that they will not abide by the commission ruling has been criticised by Sinn Fein assembly member Mr Gerry Kelly.
He said the decision showed what was behind the parade in the first place. "It is now clear that the entire ethos and intention of this parade was to cause offence and heighten community tensions."
The SDLP welcomed the decision to re-route the parade. The party said local residents, Catholics and Protestants, had been worried at the effect the parade would have on community relations. Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's assembly member for Upper Bann, Dr Dara O'Hagan, called on the Parades Commission to re-route a proposed St Patrick's Day parade by the Apprentice Boys in Lurgan, Co Armagh, away from the town's nationalist areas.
Dr O'Hagan, who met the commission to discuss the issue, said the motivation behind the parade was to raise tensions in Lurgan.
"This parade has the potential to cause serious trouble," he said. "It cannot be described as traditional and is not wanted in that part of Lurgan."
A spokesman for the Apprentice Boys in Lurgan accused Sinn Fein of playing politics with the patron saint of Ireland when they claimed him as the sole property of the nationalist community.