'Time to end ban on loyal orders walking the Ormeau Road' says Ulster Unionist and Orangeman

A long-serving unionist councillor and Orangeman has called for an end to the ban on parades down one of Belfast’s main thoroughfares.
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Jim Rodgers of the UUP was speaking after the latest example of a parade being re-routed in the Ormeau area.

It was part of the NI-wide Apprentice Boys’ Easter celebrations.

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The parade was set to begin at 8.30am in the upper Ormeau Road’s Ballynafeigh Orange Hall.

A long-standing anti-Orange mural on the lower Ormeau RoadA long-standing anti-Orange mural on the lower Ormeau Road
A long-standing anti-Orange mural on the lower Ormeau Road

It was then planned to proceed across the River Lagan, ending in the typically-loyalist Donegall Pass neighbourhood, via the traditionally-nationalist lower Ormeau area.

Applications to walk this route have been made before, but commonly meet with objections.

Community relations in the area were harmed badly by the Sean Graham bookies massacre of 1992, when a UDA team (widely believed to have come from the Annadale area of upper Ormeau) killed five random people in the lower Ormeau shop – with residents saying that during a subsequent Orange march, some participants had given a five-fingered gesture referencing the attack.

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The Parades’ Commission determination on today’s planned Apprentice Boys parade said that its organisers had “expressed frustration at the refusal of the residents to meet with them”.

The commission said if the route had gone ahead there could have been "public disorder”, so the marchers were barred from entering the lower Ormeau area.

When a similar ban was imposed last autumn, Apprentice Boys’ general secretary Billy Moore said that efforts had been made to reach out to lower Ormeau objectors over the years, but “no matter what they do” the answer is the same.

Councillor Rodgers remembers walking that route in the past, but thinks no loyal orders have done so since the mid-1990s.

Now it is time for that ban to be lifted, he said today.

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“But there’s an element who are determined to prevent it – whether it is the Orange Order, Royal Black Institution or the Apprentice Boys of Derry / Londonderry,” he told the News Letter.

"Republicans have openly said it on TV, radio, and in the press.

"It’s time that people learned to live together. To me, if we genuinely are going to live together and try and build a better relationship, that parade – singling that one out – should be allowed to go down the Ormeau Road.

“And equally, I’d say the same in relation to a nationalist parade. There has to be give-and-take. Belfast, unfortunately, there’s too much hatred in it.

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"Sadly there just seems to be a stalemate now, and there are some groups who are determined to prevent the three loyalist orders from marching anywhere in the city of Belfast.

"I’ve no time for the Parades Commission either. We should be big enough and grown up enough to settle our differences without having to apply to the Parades Commission.”