Some marchers still flaunted paramilitary trappings

Loyalist bandsmen flaunted Parades Commission guidelines by displaying paramilitary symbols at Saturday’s controversial Orange Order Whiterock parade, the Andersonstown News can reveal.

A Monkstown band marched with the crest of the UVF’s junior wing – the Young Citizen Volunteers – on each of its 20 members’ tunics.

This open display of paramilitary bravado came less than 24 hours after the loyalist Parades Forum guaranteed there would be absolutely no terror emblems on show.

The Parades Commission had originally banned loyalists from passing by nationalist Springfield Road homes because of the UVF banners and symbols displayed at the 2003 Whiterock parade. But it dramatically reversed this decision last Friday after the Parades Forum guaranteed this year’s march would be different.

And although most bands ensured their UVF flags stayed furled and taped over paramilitary badges on their tunics, the Monkstown YCV refused to hide its paramilitary insignias.

Photographs of bandsmen marching with YCV emblems on their tunics will now be used as evidence by Springifeld Road residents hoping to see an Orange Order July 12 march along the same route banned.

“The Parades Commission must take this breach into consideration when ruling on any future parades along the Springfield Road,” said residents’ spokesman Sean Paul O’Hare.

“Loyalist bands have once again broken Parades Commission guidelines. If the Orange Order is allowed to march along the Springfield Road on the Twelfth it will come as another slap in the face to residents.

“Can we really be expected to endure any more of these naked sectarian displays?”

Defending the bandsmen, Shankill Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey said he was satisfied the Whiterock march did not promote paramilitarism. And in reference to the Monkstown YCV he accused nationalists with complaints about their badges of “nit-picking”.

“The flags and banners that remained furled throughout the parade made historical, World War I references to the UVF,” said Mr McGimpsey. “The same applies to the Monkstown YCV’s badges. I’m quite satisfied that there was no paramilitary presence at the Whiterock parade and I’m hopeful that Orangemen will be allowed to walk the same route on July 12.”

Chris McGimpsey sits on the loyalist Parades Forum that pressured the Parades Commission into reversing its decision to ban the Whiterock parade from the Springfield Road. In a document obtained by the Andersonstown News – and which was sent to the Parades Commission and which was signed by a member of the Greater Shankill Community Council – it confirmed that some of the members of the North and West Belfast Parades Forum represented the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando. However Chris McGimpsey denies meeting the Parades Commission in the company of paramilitaries.

“I went to the meetings with Hugh Smyth from the PUP and Frank McCoubrey from the UPRG, there were definitely no paramilitaries at any of the Parades Commission meetings I attended,” added Mr McGimpsey.”

With the Orange Order planning to march along the Springfield Road again on July 12 the Parades Commission has a number of crucial decisions to make within the next two weeks. A feeling of betrayal among Springfield Road residents will not help matters, but despite this the Parades Commission remains confident of progress.

A spokesman said that talks between residents and the Parades Forum prior to the Whiterock parade indicated a willingness to constructively address the issue of parading in a sensitive area.

He added that the commission expects and is confident that guarantees of continued local talks would be honoured.

Residents’ groups now fearful after Springfield decision

Spokesmen for nationalist communities threatened by loyalist marches have warned that the decision to allow Orangemen to parade along the Springfield Road has brought about a “climate of fear” in their areas.

Garvaghy Road Residents’ spokesman Breandán MacCionnaith and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community’s Gerard Rice are now fearful that loyalist parades could pass through their areas during the summer months.

Both men are fearful that after the Parades Commission’s Springfield Road U-turn their communities may have to endure loyalist marches during the coming weeks.

“I have never had 100 per cent faith in Parades Commission decisions,’ said Breandán MacCionnaith.

“I don’t think the Orangemen will get down the Garvaghy Road, but I can’t be certain.

“I was on the Springfield Road on Saturday and it reminded me a lot of Portadown in the mid 1990s. In 1996 and 1997 we were given assurances that Orangemen would not march through our area. But after loyalists started making threats the government gave in, the same happened with the Springfield Road.”

The Lower Ormeau’s Gerard Rice says that in the wake of the Springfield Road Parades Commission U-turn he is now re-assessing his position working with loyalists on interface networks.

“I don’t want to be caught in the position where the Parades Commission can say that I’ve been talking with loyalists so its then okay to allow a march to go down the Lower Ormeau,” explained Gerard Rice.

“That’s what they did with Springfield Road residents who they used and abused. Local representatives had been working with loyalists to keep the interface quiet, they weren’t talking about parades until last Friday. But the Parades Commission used this to justify giving the Whiterock march the green light. It was a shocking way for the commission to behave and it destroyed its new mature and reasonable image.”

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

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