28 May 1998 Edition
Residents warn of ``catastrophe''
by Michael Pierse
Garvaghy Road Councillor Breandán Mac Cionnaith warned this week of ``possibly catastrophic circumstances'' if there is ``no attempt by the governments to resolve [the marching] problem.''
Mac Cionnaith was among representatives of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) and the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) who met with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Tuesday.
During a press conference prior to the meeting, chaired by Robert Ballagh of the INC, Breandán Mac Cionnaith and Orla Moloney (GRRC) and Gerard Rice and Michael Goodman (LOCC), spoke of their hopes and concerns for the coming months.
``I think it's very important for people to come down and face reality,'' said Breandán Mac Cionnaith in reference to the post-referendum euphoria. The sense of foreboding in relation to the marching issue has not been helped by the continuing refusal of Orangemen to consider dialogue with nationalist communities.
Gerard Rice (LOCC) emphasised that ``this issue can be easily resolved with the political will....The No people are those who are wishing to march through these areas.'' This point was emphasised throughout the conference, that it is those who opposed the Good Friday document, those who refused to enter into dialogue, those who have opposed change at every opportunity who are seeking to wreck the momentum provided for in the document. In essence ``the Orange Order have sought for years and for generations to do nothing but wreck peace,'' Rice said.
Mac Cionnaith also referred to the security presence associated with the marches. ``Last year 2,500 RUC members imposed martial law'' on the 6,000 strong Garvaghy Road community, he explained. This scenario was also presented by Gerard Rice, who said that the Lower Ormeau suffers five days of saturation from the crown forces. ``We live in an estate where sectarianism is tolerated and in the month of July it is trailed up and down our streets.''
Mac Cionnaith spoke of his disappointment that David Trimble, the MP for his area, is still refusing to enter dialogue with the local community. ``People can at least expect that their local MP will sit down and discuss their grievances with them,'' he said. However, he was still hopeful of negotiations being a success. ``We are going to enter dialogue and we are not going to rule out any possible outcome.''
A joint statement from the residents groups commented that ``we will be asking the Taoiseach to use his influence and authority to ensure that parades are not forced on unwilling communities this year and that dialogue and agreement - rather than confrontation and violence - become the basis for parading in our society.''
In a separate development, at a public meeting this month in Downpatrick, a Concerned Residents' Association (DCRA) was founded ``with the sole purpose of resolving the problems surrounding the proposed Twelfth demonstration in Downpatrick.''
The association commented that a contentious parade scheduled for 12 July ``would merely be a `coat-trailing exercise.' Particularly, when non-controvesial alternative venues are available.''
Orange marches exposed
BBC's Spotlight programme on Tuesday night exposed the bigoted views of prominent No campaigner and ex-RUC man Stephen McAllister.
McAllister, an Orangeman and organiser of the Tour of the North parade, which plans to go through nationalist areas of North Belfast on 19 June, said it was pointless for Orangemen to march in Protestant areas only.
North Belfast Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said McAllister's remarks ``quite clearly reflect what nationalists have been saying for years, that these parades are sectarian in nature, triumphalist, and designed to dominate.''
He said, ``Residents in north Belfast will also be alarmed and extremely concerned at the revelation that the Orange Order has been informed by the RUC that their planned route in north Belfast is to be approved.
``The questions now are, have the RUC approved this route? Is it still the case that the RUC will once again take the decision on contentious marches in north Belfast? Will the RUC again use violence to force this march through when there is an alternative route?
``Nationalists are concerned and deeply suspicious at these events. If there is a decision then they have the right to know exactly what that decision is,'' Kelly said.