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12 June 2003 Edition

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Springfield residents to allow Orange march

BY áINE Ní BHRIAIN

Nationalist residents have offered to allow Orangemen to walk along part of the Springfield Road in Belfast.

The Springfield Road Residents' Group says they will allow the unionist parade to pass through their area on Saturday 28 June without opposition, if the Orangemen agree to abide by a five-point plan aimed at averting serious trouble.

Residents' spokesperson Sean Murray, said the five-point plan is a genuine attempt to resolve the issue for future years.

"This is a serious attempt at trying to find an acceptable accommodation to this problem," he said. "We have written to the Orange Order asking for dialogue every month for the last three years but they have never replied.

"In essense, we are saying that we are prepared to accept Orangemen on the Springfield Road if they agree to use an alternative route through Mackies factory and abide by the other conditions.

"We are making a serious effort to solve this problem and we hope that the Orangemen will do the same."

During marches in the last few years, Orangemen would enter the road from a peaceline gate at Workman Avenue. The suggested route would mean they would walk through the disused Mackies factory instead and would emerge onto the road less than 200 metres from where they usually would.

In a statement detailing the plan, Springfield residents say they have made some progress in reaching out to their unionist neighbours but have yet to meet with a single acknowledgement from the Orange Order, who have ignored all attempts nationalists have made to enter into any sort of dialogue.

"In the absense of such an engagement we sought to develop a process of dialogue with community and residents' groups from the adjoining unionist/loyalist areas," reads the statement. "This has allowed both communities to identify common ground and issues, especially those of a socio-political nature."

In spite of all the hard work and progress made by both sides, further cross-community relations may be in jeopardy if the upcoming march is again allowed through the area without any restrictions.

During June and July 2002, the Springfield Road was the scene of some of the worst rioting in recent years, after Orange marches were allowed onto the road without the consent of nationalist residents.

Violent clashes broke out between residents and the PSNI - after one march 20 PSNI officers were injured and 26 baton rounds were fired - three of which struck demonstrators. An eleven-year-old Catholic girl was arrested and a pregnant woman was struck in the stomach with a police shield, which knocked her to the ground. Community worker John Leatham, who was at the protest as an observer, also sustained injuries when he was assaulted by PSNI men.

One of the requests included in the five-point plan is that passing Orangemen and their bands refrain from carrying any paramilitary displays, flags or emblems and and that no paramilitary uniforms be worn.

This should meet with acceptance, seeing as how clause ten of the Orange Order's own "Conditions of Engagement" for marches states the same - but on past occasions during the Springfield march, unionists have ignored their own regulations and included a band dedicated to slain UVF man Brian Robinson.

Robinson was shot dead by undercover British soldiers in September 1989, only minutes after he and another man had killed Catholic man Patrick McKenna in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

In June 2000, loyalist paramilitaries dressed in military style clothing and carrying UDA and UFF flags, were filmed accompanying Orangemen during the Springfield march. At no time were members of the UDA colour party challenged by the Orange Order's marshals.

On its application to the Parades Commission this year, Orange Order District Lodge 9 says that the march scheduled for the Springfield on 28 June would be composed of 16 bands and 850 participants.

The Springfield residents say that they feel the five-point plan is a "win-win" scenario for both communities. "Both communites suffer the annual cycle of tension, fear and violence accompanying each marching season. Both will undoubtedly gain from this genuine attempt to initiate a resolution of the issue."


Springfield Residents' Initiative




The five-points the residents have outlined are as follows:

1. The parade and accompanying bands to take a route through Mackies Factory onto the Springfield Road.

2. No Music should be played by the bands as they enter the Springfield Road until they reach the roundabout at its junction with the West Circular Road.

3. A commitment by the organizers to decrease the size of the parade to accommodate local Lodges and bands.

4. De-escalate the security presence in the area

5. No paramilitary displays, flags, uniforms, or emblems to be on display by either participants or bands.
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An Phoblacht
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