AP front 1 - 2022

4 June 1998 Edition

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Tour of the North tension mounts

By Mick Naughton.

With the contentious `Tour of the North' Orange parade due to go through nationalist communities in North Belfast in two weeks time residents have called on the RUC and the Parades Commission to say whether or not the Orange march is to be allowed through.

Speculation is rife that the parade, which travels through the nationalist Cliftonville Road area, along the Antrim Road and past the New Lodge, all nationalist areas, has already been given the go-ahead by both the RUC and Parades Commission.

And speaking to An Phoblacht Anthony Barnes, spokesperson for the nationalist Community Response to Sectarianism group; an umbrella group which speaks for the areas affected by the Orange march, says that North Belfast residents will be mounting a campaign in the run up to 19 June to have the `Tour' rerouted.

Barnes asked, ``will the RUC use force again to push thousands of Orangemen through three nationalist areas?''

Barnes added, ``up until now we have been met with characteristic silence from the RUC. Obviously we won't sit around waiting for a response so we have planned a number of events, which include white line protests and pickets of RUC barracks to try and expose the RUC's tactics. We will approach local schools, churches and, crucially, local traders who lost out heavily two years ago when hundreds of protesting nationalists were dragged off Cliftonpark Avenue by RUC riot squads who hospitalised one elderly woman while Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly and other party councillors were also assaulted''.

Over 40 families were also burnt out of their homes in the aftermath to the march.

The Tour of the North has witnessed similar violent scenes over the past 30 years, except for a 15 year period through the 70s and early 80s when the crown forces banned it due to its potential for serious trouble.

To date the Orange Order have refused to enter into dialogue with north Belfast nationalists.

Barnes also refuted Orange Order allegations that Sinn Fein was running the campaign. ``Sinn Fein get over 6,000 votes in the Oldpark electoral ward so it's completely normal that Sinn Fein members and supporters are involved in every aspect of community life and it's not on for people like Ulster Unionist `No' man Nelson McCausland to go off on this spurious trail.

``Any and all political views are contained in our different residents groups but I would remind everyone that republicans do not walk away from the various serious issues affecting our community, particuarly one as serious as this''.

A contradiction for the Orange organisers is that unionist politicans demanded the extension of a `peace' wall down to Cliftonpark Avenue where it meets the British army's Girdwood barracks. Yet on 19 June the same unionists want to breach the wall and march into nationalist areas.

Another member of the group, Raymond Glover, highlighted the fact that the march is planned to occur just six days before the Assembly elections, something not lost on the bigoted Spirit of Drumcree group which has been active recently in the Lower Oldpark and Crumlin Road areas.

``The possibility of a Drumcree standoff is a real fear'', Glover said.

Meanwhile SF's Gerry Kelly has commented on the refusal of both the Orange Order and RUC to deal openly with the residents, ``without the British army and RUC the Orange Order could not walk through these areas. Sinn Fein have consistently called on the Orange Order to engage in dialogue with residents with regard to this very serious situation. There is an alternative route which avoids confrontation, one they should take and we are totally behind the residents of Cliftonville, Newington and the New Lodge in their campaign to get this march re-routed.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1