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6 July 2006 Edition

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Hanson pays but Orange Order calls the tune

Just 48 hours after he handed £100,000 worth of taxpayers' money to the Orange Order to promote the Twelfth of July as a tourist attraction British direct rule minister David Hanson was left with egg on his face.

Bands attending the Orange Order's Somme Commemoration past the Nationalist Short Strand in East Belfast on Saturday 1 July displayed unionist paramilitary insignia honouring the UVF and YCV, in breach of Parades Commission rulings.

Nationalist observers also pointed out that a Rathcoole based band had KAI , an abbreviation for Kill all Irish - emblazoned on its drums while another from Portavogie in County Down carried a bannerette supporting the Red Hand Defenders - the paramilitaries responsible for the deaths of a number of nationalists.

A spokesperson for the Short Strand Residents Group said that once again there were multiple breaches of the Parades Commission determination. "It [the parade] was taken over by UVF supporters who flew their flags and played sectarian tunes despite the determination saying they were not allowed.

"Also", said the spokesperson, "the PSNI stood by as hangers on drank alcohol and allowed a loyalist on to the central reservation of the Albertbridge Road, deemed a sterile area, to video nationalist residents".

Later that night a gang of loyalists attacked a nationalist home on the Albertbridge Road.

These revelations have intensified nationalist anger at Hanson's decision to award the Orange Order £100,000 funding to help promote the Twelfth of July as, "an inclusive celebration".

Announced on Thursday 29 June Hanson, Minister for Social Development said that the money he promised the Orange Order would be spent on promoting the Twelfth marches as an "Orangefest", that would be, "family friendly", and, "inclusive".

Sinn Féin reacted to the Hanson announcement by accusing him of, "funding anti-Catholic parades and sectarianism".

The party's North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly pointed up the contradiction in Hanson's position "Last week David Hanson and Maria Eagles cut key funding amounting to £100,000 from cross community festivals in areas like the New Lodge and Ardoyne while allocating that same amount to the Orange Order.

"Ironically , the New Lodge and Ardoyne festivals are community based projects organised to ensure the areas are trouble free at times of heightened tension brought about in the main by Orange Order parades through the districts".

Adding his voice to the criticism Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd accused Hanson of funding "a bigotfest".

O'Dowd added that no matter how much money Hanson throws at the Orange Order he cannot alter the fact that the organisation has been responsible for the violence associated with Drumcree, the widespread rioting that followed last year's Whiterock Parade and the continued tension that goes with the so-called marching season.

"Hanson's 'Orangefest' is little more than a 'Bigotfest' in the eyes of the vast majority of people, many of whom flee the North during July", said O'Dowd.

Meanwhile leading Orange Order historian Reverend Brian Kennaway questioned whether David Hanson knew what he was talking about when he said his funding was aimed at promoting inclusivity.

"By it's very nature it is entirely inclusive to Protestants and excludes Roman Catholics...... if the Orange Order wants to change its image it should get rid of the paramilitary bands which are closely associated with its parades".

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