5 August 2004 Edition
Parades Commission slammed over deal with UDA-linked band
Sinn Féin has severely criticised the Parades Commission for allowing a loyalist 'Kick the Pope' band to parade past Catholic homes and St Gerard's Catholic Church in North Belfast.
The Whitewell Defenders Flute Band, which has UDA connections, was allowed to leave the mainly loyalist White City area, off the Whitewell Road, and parade, with 100 supporters, along the Serpentine and Antrim Roads on Friday 30 July.
Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Danny Lavery, told An Phoblacht that residents of the area believe the Commission is guilty of "striking a deal with the UDA over the parade", saying the loyalists agreed to remove paramilitary flags from the Whitewell area in exchange for permission to march.
Lavery said local people were angry that the Parades Commission allowed the coat-trailing parade to go ahead without consulting them.
"Nationalist residents were unaware that a loyalist band had made an application to parade and could not therefore lodge their concerns within the statutory 30-day consultation period. The Parades Commission did a deal with the loyalists behind the backs of the people.
"The decision to allow this parade to go ahead was helping to create a dire situation at a time when people were trying to resolve the marching issue," said Lavery. "The Parades Commission should, at the least, have informed residents and political representatives about this parade. People are very angry and disgusted at the decision to reward this UDA-linked band with a march, despite the fact that they have refused to enter into dialogue with residents".
o A decision of the Parades Commission to overturn a previous determination regarding a loyalist band parade through Maghera in County Derry has been slammed by Sinn Féin MLA Geraldine Dougan. The parade went ahead last Friday evening.
Dougan said that unionist paramilitaries have been targeting nationalists in the town and there is now a perception that the Commission has caved in to threats of loyalist violence.