3 June 2004 Edition

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Springfield residents offer initiative to Orange Order

An initiative offered by nationalist residents of the Springfield Road in West Belfast to allow an Orange Order march along the interface on 26 June has been given the cold shoulder by leading Ulster Unionist Councillor Chris McGimpsey (above), who is also a member of the Orange Order.

McGimpsey rejected the Springfield Residents' initiative describing the proposal that Orangemen should walk through the disused Mackies Foundry site to avoid nationalist homes as "ridiculous".

Over the weekend, the Springfield Residents delivered a five-point plan to the Orange Order which, if accepted, would allow the contentious parade to pass through the nationalist area without protest.

The initiative would involve the Orange Parade marching, with just local lodges and bands, through the disused Mackies factory site less than 100 yards from where the march annually emerges through gates at Workman Avenue and onto the Springfield Road.

The plan also involves loyalist bands not playing music until the parade has passed nationalist homes and calls for marchers not to display paramilitary or offensive flags or emblems.

Residents' spokesperson Sean Murray said the proposal was an attempt by residents to resolve the issue of contentious marches but the initiative had been met with silence from the Orange Order, which was "deeply regrettable".

On a more positive note, he revealed that "some loyalist residents are willing to meet with nationalist residents to discuss the June parade.

"In the absence of a response from the Orange Order, we sought to develop dialogue with residents and community groups from the adjoining loyalist areas and this has allowed both communities to identify common ground and issues. On the contentious parade issue it has allowed communities to discuss their concerns."

Murray said the area is currently experiencing redevelopment and community regeneration "and a lot of positive work has been accomplished", but with the Orange Order refusing to meet nationalist residents, tension is already mounting ahead of this year's parade.

"The one issue that remains to seriously undermine and destabilise this process is that of parading, hence our focus on the issue and the offer to the Orange Order to sort it out once and for all," he said.

Over the years, the Springfield Road has seen serious trouble as a result of this Orange Parade being forced through by the area by the RUC/PSNI, supported by the British Army.

Meanwhile, tensions are running high in North Belfast ahead of the Protestant Whitewell Defenders band parade on Friday 7 June. Over the past number of weeks, loyalists have been attacking nationalist houses along the proposed route.

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