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9 July 1998 Edition

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Tension rises in Lower Ormeau

by Ned Kelly

Nationalists and international observers have slammed Monday's decision by the Parades Commission to allow the 13 July Orange parade down the Lower Ormeau Road.

While the Parades Commission ``applauded the efforts of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) to secure dialogue'' and recognised both the need to ``break the cycle'' and the ``cumultative adverse affect on the nationalist community'', they still ruled to allow the Orange parade across the Ormeau bridge, as long as it is before 8.30am and without music..

Attacking the decision, Gerry Adams said, ``the Parades Commission determination is a trade-off. It has nothing to do with the objective application of the Parades Commission's own criteria.'' He added, ``unfortunately there are those who wish to maintain the culture of supremacy and domination.''

US Congressman, Donald Payne, here as an international observer, said, ``the demographic make-up of the area, the history of disturbance and the presence of sensitive sites have not been given due weight.''

He added, ``previous Orange parades along the Lower Ormeau Road have led to serious violation of the human rights of reisidents.'' The Congressman called on the Parades Commission to reverse its decision and for Marjorie Mowlam to intervene. He said he would raise the issue with the US Congress and urge President Clinton to pressure the British government ``to ensure that justice is done''.

Gerard Rice of the LOCC said, ``the rights of Catholics to live with respect and dignity has been sacrificed for political expediency.''

After pledging to mount a peaceful protest and a High Court challenge to the Parades Commission's ruling, Rice added, ``if the British government capitulates to violence then there is little this community can do.'' Rice also pledged to clamp down on any violence coming from the area. He said, ``we will not sit by, like others, if violence breaks out, we will do all in our power to halt it.''

Nationalists believe that the three hour delay in Monday's anouncement was linked to rumours circulating that David Trimble was threatening to resign as First Minister. Significantly all morning he side-stepped the issue, saying that the rumours about his position being untenable were ``a bit overheated''. Not until later in the day, after the Parades Commission had announced its decision, did Trimble rebut the claims.

As anger mounted on the Ormeau Road a relative of 18-year-old Peter Magee, killed in the 1992 Sean Graham bookies massacre, said she was ``disgusted'' by the decision. Given that during previous Orange parades past the bookies Orangemen and their loyalist supporters have danced and taunted residents by holding up five fingers in reference to the massacre, relatives of those murdered in the UFF attack said they feared that they would be subjected to yet another display of triumphalism.

Residents of the nationalist area also said they expected a repeat of the 27-hour crown force invasion and curfew of the area that accompanied the last Twelfth Orange parade to cross the Ormeau bridge, when nationalists were also beaten off the road by the RUC and held under curfew.
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