Community relations set back 20 years because of Twelfth

The conduct of Orangemen on the Twelfth of July has set community relations on the Ormeau Road back 20 years it was claimed this week.

Lower Ormeau Concerned Community spokesperson Gerard Rice this week accused local Orangemen of a blatant breach of Parades Commission considerations after bands halted on the nationalist side of the Ormeau Bridge to play sectarian tunes including the Sash and Derry's Walls as they returned from the July 12 demonstrations.

The community representative also accused the PSNI of allowing loyalists who gather at the Lower Ormeau side of the bridge to hurl insults at local observers.

The original Parades Commission ruling banned Orangemen from walking along the mainly nationalist Lower Ormeau Road and reminded those taking part in the parade that the playing of sectarian tunes by bandsmen is 'inappropriate at an interface'.

The decision to ban Orangemen from crossing the bridge was overturned after a review last week.

Nationalist representatives say several commission considerations were breached as Orangemen accompanied by four bands, two of which were from Scotland, made their way to the main Belfast demonstration.

"People in the area are very angry about this," said the community activist. "The people of this area were taunted and abused. The only thing missing was a woman dancing in the street shouting five nil. We were assured that what happened before at Sean Graham's was a one-off and it would not happen again. It now seems that people can't be trusted to keep their word.

"The PSNI has a few questions to answer. They allowed loyalists holding beer bottles by the neck as if ready to throw them to gather on the nationalist side of the bridge and abuse the few nationalist observers who gathered to monitor the proceedings.

“Instead of dealing with those behind the abuse the PSNI faced nationalist observers. The PSNI was spoken to and told of the situation and ignored it."

The community worker says he intends to raise his complaints with the Parade's Commission and the Irish government in the coming weeks. A spokesperson for the Orange Order denied that any members stopped at the bridge.

"The district officer and district marshall left the procession when it came to the bridge and stayed there until everyone had passed," said the spokesperson. "Nobody stopped and the parade moved continuously.

"Ballynafeigh feel they have given a lot of concessions and attempted to comply with the requirements placed on them."

A spokesperson for the Parades Commission confirmed that observers were present at Ormeau Bridge last Monday and that all evidence will be reviewed before any decision on whether any of its determinations were breached is made.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said any complaints "regarding individual police officers should be referred to the Police Ombudsman”.

The Parades Commission has also come in for scathing criticism from leading South Belfast Sinn Féin Assemblyman Alex Maskey.

The former Mayor of Belfast believes the parades body is intent on allowing an Orange parade down the Ormeau Road.

"Last week's parade was originally prohibited from crossing the bridge but this decision was reviewed and overturned without any consultation locally," explained the MLA. "I met with representatives of the Parades Commission two weeks ago and expressed my strong view that they would like to see an Orange parade going down the Ormeau Road. I accused them of having an agenda in relation to the Ormeau Road.

"The increase in the number of parades in Ballynafeigh, a mixed area, in recent months offers some proof of this. Several parades have been held there recently with no restrictions being placed on any of them."

The Sinn Féin man said the Orange Order is being rewarded for not talking.

"It appears that the Orange Order are being allowed to march without entering into dialogue. They were banned from coming across the bridge and this decision was overturned without consultation with local people or dialogue having taken place."

Journalist:: Connla Young

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