Apprentice Boys blocked from marching in Belfast

06/08/2004 - 17:24:19

A bitterly opposed Protestant parade was tonight barred from going past nationalist homes in north Belfast.

Members of the Apprentice Boys wanted to march through the flashpoint Ardoyne district next week.

But amid fears of new trouble after sectarian rioting erupted in the area last month, Northern Ireland’s Parades Commission blocked the procession.

A determination issued tonight said: “The Commission has cause to believe that should the parade process without restriction there will be an adverse effect on fragile community relations, and potential for public disorder.”

One band and the Ligoniel Walkers Club branch of the loyal order had applied to parade past the Ardoyne shops before travelling to Londonderry to join the main demonstration on August 14.

Although the march has been trouble-free in recent years, the violence at Ardoyne during Orange Order Twelfth of July celebrations had a major bearing on the decision.

More than 20 police officers were injured in Belfast’s worst riots for two years as nationalist youths went on the rampage when loyalists were forced through the area.

A brief statement issued by the Apprentice Boys Association hit out at the ruling.

It said: “It would seem that the Parades Commission has once again capitulated to the threat of violence in Belfast and across the country.

“A full statement will be issued once the content of today’s determinations have been fully digested.”

But Sinn Féin, which had vowed to oppose the procession along with nationalist residents, insisted a sensible decision had been taken which must not be changed by the authorities.

The republican party’s north Belfast MLA, Gerry Kelly, said: “The community in Ardoyne is still very angry at the way the PSNI and Northern Ireland Office overturned the Parades Commission ruling and forced an Orange Order parade and their unionist paramilitary supporters through this area.

“It would have been wrong of the Parades Commission to add insult to injury by allowing the Apprentice Boys to come down this road.

“This was the only sensible decision to make. There should be no acquiescence to threats of violence from the Orange Order or Unionist paramilitaries.”

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