As we go to press, nationalists in South Belfast are planning to stage a protest in response to the Parades Commission’s decision to grant a loyalist organization permission to march through a Catholic neighborhood. However, the commission also ruled that the band accompanying the marchers should remain silent as it marched through the area.
The decision came as a surprise for residents of Ormeau Road – in previous years the Parades Commission had denied the Apprentice Boys permission to march through their district. Last year alone the commission passed three rulings denying the group permission to march.
In explaining its recent ruling to allow the march, the commission claimed that there had been sustained and meaningful dialogue with the Apprentice Boys, and it denied applications by Sinn Féin and the SDLP that the march be banned.
The Parades Commission praised the exclusively Protestant organization last year for peacefully accepting the ban on their march.
Members of the Apprentice Boys travel to Derry every Easter Monday to celebrate the city’s deliverance from the army of Catholic King James during his war with William of Orange. This parade marks the beginning of the loyalist marching season. The march in Belfast by the Apprentice Boys’ local Walker Club is a smaller commemoration.
Observers fear that the protest could escalate into violence, and the Parades Commission has asked residents of Ormeau Road that any protests they stage remain peaceful and law-abiding. ♦