Northern Ireland news

Rasharkin decision is latest evidence of Parades Commission ‘getting tough'

A republican anti-interment parade was banned from Belfast city centre earlier this month. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Analysis by Connla Young

THE decision to ban Dervock Young Defenders from Rasharkin on Friday is the latest example of a recent 'get tough' policy by the Parades Commission.

While restrictions have been placed on bands before, the commission took decisive action following complaints about the behaviour of bandsmen during a Twelfth parade in Ballycastle last month.

The action comes just days after it banned a republican anti-internment march from passing through Belfast city centre, citing concerns by traders and violence last year.

It sends out a signal to bands and parade organisers that this panel is not afraid to take difficult decisions.

The hardline stance coincides with speculation that the commission's days may be numbered following a commitment to examine the parades issue in last year's Fresh Start Agreement.

Whether it will take the step of banning larger and potentially more disruptive loyalist parades from Belfast city centre in future remains to be seen.

The current panel, who took up post in January 2014, got off to a shaky start when it granted permission for an Orange Order march to pass along a section of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

The potentially explosive decision was later overturned after nationalists vented their anger.

However, the commission's placing of a blanket ban on playing music outside St Patrick’s Church in Belfast in recent years has resulted in a nationalist protest being lifted and marches passing off peacefully.

And earlier this year there was surprise when it told members of the Orange Order they could not walk through a peaceline gate into a nationalist area at Workman Avenue in west Belfast.

The July 12 period and wider marching season have been the most peaceful in recent years.

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