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25 March 1999 Edition

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Orange belligerence when accommodation needed

by Pádraig MacDabhaid.
Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) has urged the Parades Commission to order the rerouting of forthcoming parades by the Apprentice Boys and the Orange Order away from the Lower Ormeau Road.

The LOCC spokesperson was speaking as the community awaits the Parades Commission's decision about one of the largest Apprentice Boys parades due to take place in Belfast in recent years. Loyalists are threatening a Drumcree type standoff on the Ormeau Road if the parade is rerouted away from the Lower Ormeau.

Mr Rice said, ``last April the Parades Commission said that the loyal orders would need to invest `considerable time and effort' if the conditions were to be created for parades to take place in the future. Since that time the loyal orders have made absolutely no attempt to meet the concerns of local residents''.

This clearly illustrates the reasons for the common belief in the area that the conditions do not yet exist for planned parades along along the Lower Ormeau Road to take place in the foreseeable future.

Rice reaffirmed that the LOCC remains ready to meet the loyal orders, but added that: ``By their intransigence, the loyal orders have ensured that another year will pass without any sign of agreement on this issue''.

Speaking about the awaited decision, Mr Rice said he believes the Parades Commission must take into account the impact of the ongoing Drumcree protest on local feelings, with local people being disgusted at the intimidation and violence suffered by the Garvaghy Road residents.

Members of the LOCC intend to go to Dublin this week to meet with members of the Dublin government in order to enlist their support for the Lower Ormeau people's right to be free from sectarian harassment, as enshrined in the Agreement.

Meanwhile it is believed that the Orange Order in an ``unprecedented'' move planning to hold its ``Tour of the North'' parade for the second year running.

This is being viewed by nationalists as a unionist attempt to try to destroy the agreement by sending a message that no matter how many votes nationalists receive they will always have to bow down when the unionists say so.

The march which normally takes place every two years, is this year to take place despite the fact that it went ahead last year also.
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