Commission slammed on parade restrictions

Police officers at Workmans Avenue junction of the Springfield road, a parades commission determination has ruled that the Whiterock Parade will not pass through the gates for the first time this coming weekend.
Police officers at Workmans Avenue junction of the Springfield road, a parades commission determination has ruled that the Whiterock Parade will not pass through the gates for the first time this coming weekend.

The Parades Commission has been slammed for banning the Whiterock parade from passing through the peace line at Workman Avenue in Belfast this Saturday.

The regulatory body issued the decision on Monday evening.

The full parade used to pass through the gates at Workman Avenue until 2006, after which only 50 people were allowed through. The remainder were directed through the nearby Mackies site.

DUP MLA William Humphrey expressed shock and disappointment at the latest Parades Commission decision to block the entire parade from the Workman Avenue gates.

Mr Humphrey, who is a member of No 9 District said, “This decision is bizarre, illogical and unhelpful. The Whiterock parade has passed off peacefully in recent years with the Orange Institution fully abiding by previous determinations which restricted the number of participants allowed to pass through the gates. It is notable that the only breaches have been by nationalist protestors, some of whom travel a great distance to be offended.”

He said that last year senior republican protestors breached the rules by leaving the footpath and walking behind the parade.

“It was a clear breach of the determination but now they have been rewarded for it.”

Mr Humphries said the commission justified its decision by claiming the Orange Order had refused to get involved with it or residents.

“However the Orange Order has been in dialogue with residents for years,” he said.

He added that the purpose of the commission was “to enshrine the veto of nationalist protestors” against unionist parades.

A Parades Commission spokeswoman said: “The Commission has determined that no part of the parade may cross the peace lines through the Workman Avenue gates, but should instead proceed in full via the Invest NI site to the Springfield Road.

“Conditions about paramilitary trappings have also been imposed.

“In reaching its decision, the Commission is mindful of the persistent breaches of determinations particularly in relation to colour parties, flags and emblems. The Commission has also received complaints about conduct of the parade and related protest last year.

“This decision reflects perceptions of paramilitary influences at the interface and is consistent with the approach by statutory agencies in relation to putting victims and survivors needs at the centre of decision making.

“The opening of permanently closed gates of the peace wall without cross community consultation is not in keeping with current policy recommendations. No dialogue about the parade has recently taken place.

The impacts are escalating tensions at the Springfield Road interface each summer, with community life disturbed over many hours and an extremely high risk of public disorder.

“The Commission continues to urge all parties to engage indialogue about all aspects of the parade.”