Belfast Telegraph

Apprentice Boys may defy ban on Ardoyne
Violence fears as marchers plan to pass flashpoint

By Brendan McDaid
12 August 2004

The Apprentice Boys of Derry today refused to rule out Belfast members attempting to march past Ardoyne despite a Parades Commission ban.

The Apprentice Boys spoke out for the first time today amid reports from senior loyalists that Belfast Apprentice Boys planned to remove their collarettes and walk as individuals in the vicinity of the nationalist area.

It is feared such a move on the feeder parade could spark violent scenes similar to those witnessed at the north Belfast flashpoint in July.

Speaking from Derry today, where the main march and parade will take place this Saturday, Apprentice Boys spokesman Willie Hay said: "I do not know what their plans are and they will make their own decision."

He added, however: "As far as we are concerned, we are sure that all Apprentice Boys will stay within the law and within the determination made by the Parades Commission, no matter how difficult that will be."

Mr Hay accused the commission of bending to republican and nationalist pressure in its decision last week to ban the Belfast brethren from marching to Ardoyne en route to Derry.

He claimed: "The decision by the Parades Commission not to allow this parade has been given under threat.

"Those who issued the biggest threat of violence have won the day and that is how the Apprentice Boys see it."

The Parades Commission issued its ruling last week, citing the Apprentice Boys' refusal to engage in talks with nationalist residents and the violent clashes that followed the Orange Order parades last month.

Mr Hay said the Apprentice Boys now planned to raise concerns over the rulings of the Parades Commission following Saturday's march.

"When you look at last year, it was very peaceful parade and protest. What has changed?

"There's a number of questions which now need to be asked of the Parades Commission and a number of concerns we want to put."

Meanwhile, police in Derry yesterday held talks with nationalist and loyalist community representatives in a bid to calm tensions ahead of Saturday's parade.

The meeting was called following several violent episodes earlier this week at interface areas.

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