Restrictions imposed on the forthcoming Whiterock Parade in Belfast have been described as “ridiculous” by DUP Councillor Frank McCoubrey.
The Parades Commission has determined that no part of the Whiterock Parade is permitted to cross the peaceline at Workman’s Avenue gates.
The parade, due to take place at 2.15pm on Saturday, will feature 15 bands and is expected to attract nearly 1,000 participants
In previous years a small number of parade participants were allowed through the Workman’s Avenue gates while the remainder of the parade travelled through the nearby Mackies site. However, last year the entire parade was re-routed. That restriction is in place again this year.
Mr McCoubrey said: “In repeating last year’s ridiculous determination it is clear once again that the Parades Commission seeks to reward those who object to parades taking place and who have previously breached determinations.
“In 2015 when a restricted number of participants were allowed through the gates at Workman Avenue the parade passed off peacefully. The Orange Institution fully abided by that determination and the only breaches were by nationalist protestors, some of whom travelled a great distance to be present.”
He continued: “Last year the Commission attempted to use the Fresh Start Agreement as rationale for blocking the parade, claiming the gates could not be opened without cross-community consent. That is not the case but once again the Commission has decided to compound their error by once again blocking any parade participants from passing through the gates.”
The DUP Councillor added: “The lack of any openness or transparency on the part of the Commission of course means they do not provide any proper justification or explanation for their illogical decisions.
The Parades Commission have repeatedly demonstrated how they stand as part of the problem in parading here rather than the solution.”
No.9 District Lodge described the Parades Commission determination as deplorable.
At a meeting of the District Lodge, members expressed their “disgust and anger” at a determination which they said “once again rewards Republican intransigence and bad behaviour”.
A spokesman said: “The Whiterock Parade has passed off peacefully in recent years, with the Orange Institution abiding by previous determinations.
“It is notable that the only breaches have been by Nationalist protesters, some of whom travel a great distance to be ‘offended’.
“The Parades Commission need to remember that the section of the Springfield Road which Republicans deem ‘contested’ is in fact a ‘shared road’, in every sense.
“It is clear that this determination by the Parades Commission re-enforces our belief that the Parades Commission cannot be part of the solution regarding parading in Northern Ireland, instead they continue to be part of the problem.”
A spokeswoman for the Parades Commission protestors had been reduced from 250 to 100.
“The Commission has determined that the full parade of 950 participants may process from the Invest NI site along the sensitive interface of the Springfield Road to West Circular Road, and that hymn music only may be played in this location, and only specified banners and flags may be carried,” she said.
“No part of the parade may cross the peace line at the security gates at Workman Avenue, which is the same restriction as last year. These gates are closed to vehicles both day and night, and the Commission has in its decision making given due weight amongst other factors to the primacy of communities in determining how space at the peace walls is used.
“The related protest by Springfield Residents Action Group against the parade on the Springfield Road has been restricted from 250 to 100 participants, and has conditions imposed regarding its conduct, location, movement and dispersal.
“These conditions are in the interests of the relationships between the local communities, and the primacy given to them in determining how to use space at the peace line. These conditions are necessary to reduce the risks of public disorder.”