Row over restrictions placed on Orange Order route by Parades Commission

The Orange Order has challenged a decision by the Parades Commission to exclude a parade from entering part of a north Belfast estate, amidst a row over the religious make-up of the area.

The row has emerged over a North Belfast Centenary Parade today by Loyal Orange Order No 4 District Lodge. It was to start at Wheatfield Drive, go via Ardoyne Road and the Ballysillan Road into Kilcoole Park before concluding at Ballysillan Leisure Centre. Five hundred participants and three bands are due to take part in the parade today from 3pm today to 4:15pm.

However  the commission determination states that Kilcoole Park followed by Rosscoole Park and Mountcoole Park were all sensitive parts of the proposed route and have barred the parade from the area.

In its determination, the commision says Kilcoole Park is one of two entrance roads into “a mixed residential area, described variously by a large number of residents as a ‘neutral area,’ a ‘peaceful, mixed area’ and as a ‘quiet area.’” It added: “The Commission received a large number of objections to a parade in this area in 2018, as it was perceived to destabilise a settled mixed neighbourhood.”

But in a statement, the Orange Order said it “condemned in the strongest possible terms the decision to ban the District’s forthcoming Centenary parade from entering the Kilcoole area of North Belfast.”

It added: “The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in Kilcoole are Protestant and Unionist, with many members of the Institution and their families living in the community. We do not claim Kilcoole as our own, recognising that there are a small number of residents from a differing tradition. However, we do expect where such a shared society exists that the traditions and values of the overwhelming majority of residents would be respected.”

TUV North Belfast candidate and party secretary Ron McDowell also affirmed the Orange position. He said: “To ban an Orange Order parade from the very community it draws its membership from, is incredible even by the disastrous standards the Parades Commission normally achieves. In an area of good community relations there is now absolute fury.”

However a spokesperson for the commission said it had deliberated carefully on the issues. “Having considered all information and representations received in relation to this parade, the Commission is satisfied that the conditions imposed are necessary, proportionate and fair,” it said. “The Commission continues to encourage all parties to this parading dispute to enter into dialogue to achieve an accommodation which reflects the needs of the local communities.”

Published on the 2nd of October 2021
Article taken from the Belfast News Letter

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