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Orangemen 'frightened' over parades

22/11/2004 13:13:56

Police chiefs in east Belfast are trying to frighten Orangemen out of making new parade applications, it was claimed today.

As top officers were braced for a meeting with angry marchers in the city, a Policing Board representative accused them of running a vendetta.

The DUP`s Sammy Wilson said: "There are a couple of senior officers who are intent on persecuting the Orangemen.

"It`s almost become Gestapo-like tactics."

The loyal order`s fury has risen since their leaders in east Belfast were interviewed by police last month over a Twelfth of July demonstration.

District Master Raymond Spiers and two other senior officers were questioned under caution about flags being carried with their procession and one of the accompanying band`s uniforms.

The men were also quizzed about why `The Sash` was played during part of the parade, an Order spokeswoman said.

A file has since been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Orangemen are expected to express their opposition at a District Policing Partnership meeting on Wednesday.

With East Belfast District Commander Henry Irvine unable to attend, their fury will be directed at his Operations Manager, Superintendent Nigel Ritchie.

The Orange Order confirmed it would be challenging senior officers to explain their actions when nationalists in north Belfast`s Ardoyne rioted on the same night.

"Nobody is saying if we have broken the law we shouldn`t face some form of prosecution," the spokeswoman said.

"But there was a huge amount of violence in the Ardoyne that night where they (nationalists) were beating the hell out of the Army.

"Is it fair that we are being questioned about playing The Sash?

"How many others are being questioned about their conduct on the Twelfth?"

A book of Irish folk songs, produced in Dublin and including The Sash, has been sent to Chief Constable Hugh Orde to prove it is non-sectarian, she added.

Mr Wilson was equally outraged by the police`s actions.
"I suspect the way they are dealing with this is to stop them putting their names on parade applications.

"It`s all about ordinary working men who don`t want this hassle because they are afraid of ending up in court."

The PSNI refused to respond to Mr Wilson`s claims, although it is understood officers are ready to defend their tactics during Wednesday`s meeting.

A PSNI spokesman added: "An alleged breach of a Parades Commission determination at east Belfast on July 12, 2004 is being investigated by police.

"A report has been submitted to the DPP."

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