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8 May 1997 Edition

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Why not just let them march?

Why don't they just let them march? is the question asked by many political and church leaders when it comes to the issue of contentious parades. Why not indeed! Maybe the experience of residents living in the County Tyrone town of Newtownstewart on Friday evening 2 May will help these people understand some of the reasons why sectarian parades aren't welcome in nationalist areas.

Crowds of men were drinking, urinating and vomiting against walls and chanting sectarian slogans as they milled around waiting for members of the 26 bands that travelled into the West Tyrone village for the band parade to form up.

The RUC closed the main road linking Omagh to Derry from 7 o'clock and townspeople were forced to make diversions as they went about their business. Then at around 9 o'clock the Orangemen, led by the Newtownstewart Red Hand Defenders marched off. They marched through the town, not to a church service but to the Nationalist area of Mourneview in an act of pure triumphalism. They played their drums and flutes, stopping only to attack property and hurl sectarian abuse at residents.

Derg Sinn Fein representative Charlie McHugh said, ``many local people have complained to me about this disgraceful situation. They were terrorised on Friday evening and I appeal to the local Orange Order to help solve this issue''.

Meanwhile in Belfast the RUC have been forced to reroute another contentious parade on the Ormeau Road. The loyalist group Ormeau Residents Demand Equal Rights (ORDER), which is led by UDP member Pauline Gilmore, proposed that 15 bands and 2000 marchers parade onto the nationalist Lower Ormeau Road on Saturday 10 May. Local people have described the proposed parade as a way of heightening tensions and of pressurising the RUC into allowing the Orange Order to march down the nationalist area on 12 July.

Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) said they were relieved at the decision to reroute the parade and have called on new NIO boss Mo Mowlam to announce that no parades will be allowed along the Lower Ormeau this year.
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