Parade ruling overturned
The march takes place on Saturday

The Parades Commission has reversed its decision to ban a contentious Orange Order parade in Belfast.

The body had originally barred Orangemen from walking down part of the Springfield Road during the annual Whiterock parade on Saturday.

The Parades Commission had imposed the ruling because of Ulster Volunteer Force paraphernalia on show during last year's march, and the refusal of the Orange Order to engage in dialogue with the residents.

However, on Friday the commission said its review considered a number of changes in the circumstances surrounding the parade which had been communicated to it in meetings with political and community representatives over the last two days.

The commission has now agreed to allow the parade strictly on the grounds that all paramilitary flags and emblems be removed including an Ulster Volunteer Force bannerette.

The Ballysillan Volunteers Flute Band, which it said broke last year's parades rules, would not be allowed to take part.

The commission heard from senior police officers, Sinn Fein and the nationalist Springfield Road residents' group earlier on Friday.

It also talked to the newly formed Parades Forum, which includes senior loyalists, unionist councillors and Orange Order representatives.

'Future parades'

In a statement, the commission said: "In the light of these changes to the circumstances surrounding the parade the Parades Commission has reviewed its determination.

"The Whiterock Parade will now be permitted to enter the Springfield Road, under specific and detailed conditions.

"Any breaches of the determination, or a failure to continue the engagement with residents which has now begun, will impact on future parades.

"The Parades Commission is hopeful that the Whiterock parade will pass off as peacefully in 2004 as it did last year."

Residents spokesman Sean Paul O'Hare criticised the commission's decision.

He said it was disgraceful that his group had not been officially told about the commission's decision.

Belfast's senior police commander, Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, said he would work with local communities and their representatives to ensure the parade was peaceful and lawful.

"No-one wants to see a situation where a parade or protest descends into violence and disorder," he said.

"People get injured. Property gets damaged. Life can be put at risk. Whole communities who want nothing more than to get on with their lives are disrupted.

"It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to do our best to avoid that."

Preliminary talks on Thursday between nationalist residents and the new forum broke up without agreement.

The Orangemen's route will now take the march from the Orange Hall on the Shankill - around neighbouring streets - then down Ainsworth Avenue, across to Workman Avenue and onto the Springfield Road.

The parade will now proceed up the Springfield Road, along the West Circular and back towards the Shankill.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

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