AP front 1 - 2022

8 July 1999 Edition

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Ormeau Park rally madness

By Roisin Cox

``Absolute madness'' is how Gerard Rice, spokesperson for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC), has described the Orange Order's decision to switch its main Belfast parade destination to Ormeau Park after the Parades Commission banned Ballynafeigh Orangemen from marching on the Lower Ormeau Road.

The decision to stage this protest at Ormeau Park instead of its usual location at Edenderry shows the determination of the Orange Order to further intimidate the nationalist community on the Lower Ormeau Road.

The move, taken unanimously by the Orange Order, will mean that up to 40,000 Orangemen will converge on the Lower Ormeau area, sparking fears among nationalist residents that they will be subjected to outbreaks of loyalist violence.

And despite the relative calm that has followed the Parades Commission's decision to ban this year's Drumcree parade, a calm that proves the Orange Order's ability to turn loyalist violence on and off at will, nationalists are fearful that the thousands of Orange supporters who turn up at Ormeau Park will run amok afterwards.

Gerard Rice, spokesperson for the LOCC said: ``This is clearly an attempt by the Orange Order to create a Drumcree-style stand off here in Belfast and to intimidate our community.''

The Orange Order's determination to lay siege to the Ormeau Road comes after Gerard Rice welcomed the Parades Commission decision to reroute the contentious 12 July parade away from the nationalist Lower Ormeau Road. Speaking on 5 July, Rice said, ``today's decision has brought some relief at last.

``Obviously our community has been tense in recent days, not just with the prospect of a parade being forced down the road but also with the threat of the marches coming from other parts of Belfast in order to force the Parades Commission's hand.''

Rice's earlier words proved premature, however. Now, as the Orange Order ups the ante with its determination to saturate Ormeau Park with tens of thousands of Orangemen and their `hangers on', 12 July is set to pose a greater threat to nationalist residents.

With characteristic disregard for nationalist residents, the Orange Order has chosen the most confrontational stance in a bid to further inflame the situation. There is now real fear by nationalists on the Lower Ormeau Road that this protest has the potential to bring violence onto the Ormeau Road.

``This week, the Orange Order had the opportunity to choose between dialogue and confrontation, and it seems the politics of confrontation have won the day,'' said Rice.

The LOCC is now calling upon both the Parades Commission to ban the parade and for Belfast City Council, which has responsibility for the Ormeau Park, to stop the Orange Order from using it.


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