Northern Ireland

Unionist anger after Orange parade ban in north Belfast

An Orange parade has been banned from the Kilcoole Park area of North Belfast
An Orange parade has been banned from the Kilcoole Park area of North Belfast

UNIONISTS have reacted angrily after the Parades Commission banned an Orange Order march from going through a mixed area in north Belfast.

Up to three bands and 500 participants are expected to take part in the "centenary parade" around the Ballysillan area today.

The procession, which has been marked as "sensitive", has been banned from entering the mixed Kilcoole Park, Rosscoole Park and Mountcoole Park areas.

In its determination the Parades Commission described Kilcoole Park as "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’."

The commission confirmed it received both written and oral objections.

It also said it had representation from "a broad range of affected parties, indicating that the area is a quiet mixed neighbourhood" and was "advised of ongoing community tensions in the area".

In 2018 the commission received a large number of objections to a parade in the area "as it was perceived to destabilise a settled mixed neighbourhood".

The Orange Order last night slammed the decision. In a statement the "officers and brethren" of No 4 District said: "By banning the procession from entering Kilcoole not only have the commissioners displayed contempt for the traditions and heritage of our community, but they have also demonstrated their total lack of knowledge of the local demographics.

"This has led to immense anger amongst local residents."

It claimed that 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," the statement said, but added that "this abhorrent decision is simply wrong, defies logic and goes against natural justice".

DUP representatives, who met the Parades Commission this week, were also critical.

"It is appalling that the Parades Commission is once again suppressing cultural expression by the loyal orders," a spokesman said.

"This one-off parade has been organised by north Belfast district Orange lodge to mark the Northern Ireland Centenary."

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said the Parades Commission has to treat everything as it sees it.

"It's a mixed area and we should be mindful of that and people who live there should feel safe," he said.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said: "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.

"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."

Meanwhile, a hunger strike commemoration will take place in Bellaghy, Co Derry, today.

The event, which has been organised by hardline party Saoradh, caused controversy last month when Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAC said it had "not granted permission" for a 'National Hunger Strike Commemoration' at its premises.