Business leaders have praised the Orange Order for delaying a parade it had planned in Belfast city centre this Saturday.
Two bands and about 200 people had been due to march on one of the year’s busiest shopping days.
Sandy Row District LOL No 5 said it had taken the decision to postpone the parade, which it had organised in support of the Ligoniel lodges who were blocked from completing their July 12 parade past Ardoyne by the Parades Commission. Supporters of the lodges have held an ongoing protest in the area since.
Belfast city centre manager Andrew Irvine said: “I really want to say thank you to Sandy Row Loyal Orange Lodge for taking this decision. I recognise they did not have to take it. We are looking forward to a buoyant Christmas with the parade taking place in the New Year.”
Glynn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association agreed.
“It is welcome news that the Orange Order have listened to the views of city centre traders,” he said.
It is too early to say if trade would improve this year but early indicators were good, he added.
The Sandy Row lodge said in a statement: “The decision was taken after listening to city centre traders and the local community and in light of the heightened level of security due to republican terrorism.
“We believe a further parade at this time through the city centre would not be in the interests of our fellow citizens and therefore, as an act of goodwill in this Christmas season, we have decided to postpone the parade until early in the New Year.”
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said it was “progressive of the Order that they not only consulted with traders, but reacted positively to their message”.
He added: “I shall listen carefully to hear whether Sinn Fein and others give this news the positive welcome it deserves.”
However, he also called on the order to abandon street protests and use dialogue instead.
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said the decision was “the sensible thing to do” and that “it would be churlish not to welcome it”.
The deputy lord mayor of Belfast, DUP Alderman Christopher Stalford, described the decision as a “positive step” that “reflects the desire of Orangemen to see their city grow, thrive and expand”.
“It demonstrates that the Orange Institution in Sandy Row, and in Belfast more generally, has shown a degree of flexibility and leadership that has been sadly lacking from those who oppose their right to parade,” he said.
Meanwhile the Orange Order has accused the Parades Commission of “a blatant act of arrogance and revenge” in blocking its attempts to complete a July 12 parade past the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.
There had been much dialogue, the Order said, and in another attempt to break the deadlock, it had notified its intention to complete the return parade along the Crumlin Road this Saturday at 9am; it had been blocked by the Parades Commission on July 12. There were several initiatives planned that would have illustrated its “genuine commitment to finding a long-term resolution”, the Order said.
However, the commission’s refusal was “a blatant act of arrogance and revenge”, it said.
A spokeswoman for the commission said it has been encouraging dialogue at Ardoyne since June 2012 when talks led by Lord Alderdice ended. It was not aware of any subsequent dialogue other than the meeting six days before the July 2013 parade. Until resolutions are made it is legally obliged to restrict parades, she added.