Northern Ireland news

Loyalist band parade barred from mixed area of north Belfast

An Orange Order parade through Kilcoole Park and Kilcoole Gardens in 2018. Picture by Matt Bohill
Brendan Hughes

A loyalist flute band has been barred from parading through a mixed area of north Belfast over the Twelfth.

Ballysillan Volunteers had planned a march on July 13 through 77 streets lasting five-and-a-half hours.

A Parades Commission ruling has banned it from various streets along the planned route.

These include Kilcoole Park and Kilcoole Gardens, a mixed area where in 2018 an Orange Order 'floating the banner' parade prompted concerns from residents.

In its ruling, the parades body said the route was near sensitive interfaces which "poses a major risk to community relations".

"The parade's long route, with its entry into multiple residential neighbourhoods, and its long duration, against the backdrop of the pandemic, is potentially highly disruptive to community life. There is a potential for public disorder," it said.

The proposed route and the Parades Commission's determination have since been removed from its website.

A spokesman for the commission said this was because the organiser had withdrawn the notification.

It is unclear what Ballysillan Volunteers now intends to do.

Dozens of applications for marches over the Twelfth have been made to the Parades Commission in recent weeks amid an easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The Orange Order in April cancelled its usual Twelfth parades, advising members to mark the event at home, but it has offered support to bands planning marches in their own areas.

The Twelfth is this year taking place on July 13, because July 12 falls on a Sunday.

Ballysillan Volunteers proposed a march involving 30 participants between 11.30am and 5pm, mainly on residential streets off Crumlin Road, Ballysillan Park and Ballysillan Road.

However, the Parades Commission noted that the route included the mixed residential area of Kilcoole Park and Kilcoole Gardens, which has a "history of sensitive parades".

Objections were received on behalf of residents at Squires Hill Road and Kilcoole Park and Gardens, and concerns were raised about the parade in parts of Sunningdale and Oldpark Road.

The organiser told the commission the chosen route is a "working-class Protestant area" and he was willing to make some changes and reduce the parade to four hours, from noon to 4pm.

He said a banner had been prepared reminding residents "not to follow the parade", amid Covid-19 restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to 30 people.

In its ruling, the commission said it considered the long duration and potential community relations impact of a new parade in north Belfast.

"The commission has concluded that this parade's route in north Belfast near sensitive interfaces creates uncertainty, and poses a major risk to community relations," it said.

It ruled that the parade cannot pass along Squires Hill Road or proceed beyond Joanmount Park, but instead should turn left off Joanmount Park to Joanmount Drive, and later disperse at the junction of Joanmount Gardens with Ballysillan Road.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson criticised the decision as "disproportionate".

"Hypothetical considerations as to the potential impact of a 'new' parade is applying an irrational subjective standard," he tweeted.

The full proposed route was still visible yesterday on the Ballysillan Volunteers' Facebook page.

In an online post, it urged people not to follow the band during the parade.

"We have tried our best to accommodate every resident within Ballysillan and we hope you all enjoy what should be a glorious day," it said.

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