Orange parades bid seen as tactic to stretch RUC


THE Orange Order appears intent on stretching the capability of the RUC to deal with any news Drumcree protest. The RUC has received several applications for Orange marches in Belfast and elsewhere in the week after the Drumcree parade on July 6th.

Nationalist groups have responded by applying to stage counter demonstrations, according to police.

A Presbyterian minister, the Rev Jim Campbell, said it would be "immoral and contrary to Protestantism" if the Orange Order's motivation was to put extra pressure on police, particularly after the IRA had murdered two of its members.

What has been described as a "swarm" of Orange applications is being viewed as an attempt to stretch the resources of the police who - if the Drumcree parade is rerouted - would also be under severe pressure in Portadown, and possibly other areas.

Under the Public Order (NI Order) legislation, the police cannot ban but only restrict marches if trouble is likely. The counter applications from nationalists' groups is an apparent attempt to force police to invoke this legislation.

The RUC was not surprised by the rush of applications. "This is, following a similar pattern to last year," said one police source, referring to the series of Orange marches held at the height of last year's Drumcree crisis. Trouble erupted during some of these parades. During a parade in north Belfast, a Sinn Fein councillor, Mr Gerry Kelly, was arrested during a nationalist protest.

No one was available from the Orange Order to comment on the parade applications. However, Mr Gerard Rice, of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Group, said the parades "are designed to frighten people and to ensure another capitulation to Orange rule". He urged the RUC to reroute them. "We will peacefully protest at these parades," he said.

The Rev Jim Campbell, of the Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church on the upper Ormeau Road in Belfast, said people wanted to see pressure taken off the police.

He told BBC Radio Ulster that if "this is something that is being organised to stretch the police and to intimidate police and their families, we would feel in fact that this is immoral. We would feel that the mass of the people in Northern Ireland have great respect and sympathy for the police and want them to be given a break".

He said that to try to overthrow the legal authority by force is "contrary to scripture" and "a betrayal of Protestantism".

The INLA has added to current tensions over parades by issuing a statement saying it will not sit back" during the marching season. "The aim of these proposed marches is to coat trail through nationalist areas already traumatised and to cause the maximum amount of disruption and hurt," the outlawed paramilitary organisation said.

"Directions have been issued to all of our units, and INLA volunteers will be placed on full standby in defence of nationalist communities where and when necessary" the statement added.

Meanwhile, the RUC has rerouted an Orange parade due to take place on Sunday week away from the predominantly nationalist lower Ormeau Road. It has also restricted the areas in Bellaghy, Co Derry, where Orangemen can march this Sunday and where local nationalists can counter demonstrate.

"We have restricted both groups to particular areas of the village which should not cause confrontation or contention between the two groups," an RUC spokesman said of the Bellaghy parade.

In Derry over the past two days, the Parades Commission met members of the Apprentice Boys and the Bogside Residents Group. Despite the advice of the Commission, the Apprentice Boys again refused to discuss parades with the nationalist residents' group.

Mr Paddy Lynn of the Workers Party in the North said on the parades issue there were "sinister sectarian elements in our society who are trying to push Northern Ireland over the brink for their own petty, narrow, bigoted and political ambitions".

. A Sinn Fein councillor, Mr Bobby Lavery, accused the Orange Order of trying to heighten tension and inflame a potentially dangerous situation, writes Suzanne Breen in Belfast.

"It is clear that by filing for these parades the Orange Order has served notice on the British government that unless Orangemen get their way at Drumcree, a heavy price will be exacted upon nationalist people in Belfast," he said.