Parade tensions are created, claims Orange Order cleric

An Orange Parade passes residents protesting outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast
An Orange Parade passes residents protesting outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast

Loyal Order parades are only contentious when republicans choose to make them so, a senior Orange Order cleric claimed yesterday.

The Rev Mervyn Gibson was speaking in the wake of three major Orange parades in Belfast that passed off peacefully.

The Tour of the North took place on June 21, with the Whiterock and Somme parades taking place on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Despite concerns about tensions all passed off without trouble.

Mr Gibson said yesterday: “It proves the point that any parade in Northern Ireland can be made contentious if people want it to be.

“They are only contentious when republicans want them to be so. We remember Gerry Adams admitting that the trouble at Drumcree in the 1990s ‘did not happen by accident’.”

Mr Gibson believes there is a “strong connection” between tensions over parades and the level of dissident republican activity in any area, citing Ardoyne as an example.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission repeated its belief that “people can choose what sort of parading season Northern Ireland has this year”.

He added: “The atmosphere at recent parades indicates that – on the whole – people can parade and protest respectfully.

“Hopefully this can be replicated during the rest of the summer.”

PSNI Chief Superintendent George Clarke said the Tour of the North was “largely peaceful” although some suspected breaches of restrictions were under investigation as was an attempt to disrupt the procession by youths.

He was “encouraged by the dignity” of the Whiterock parade, adding that it was “a strong indicator as to how such events can pass off”. Some potential breaches of restrictions were also being investigated there, he added.

However Sinn Fein was not positive. “The way to remove contention from parading is for the marching orders to respect the rights of residents and enter face-to-face discussions regarding parades,” a spokesman said yesterday.

“It is also important that they instruct their members and accompanying bands to abide by the law in respect of any conditions applied to parades.”