The First Minister has declared a Parades Commission ruling on a west Belfast loyalist march “completely misguided”, and that she intends to challenge their decision in the form of a letter.
Earlier in the week, there was uproar from some loyalists after the commission barred an upcoming parade this Saturday from passing through a security gate connecting the Woodvale Avenue area to the Springfield Road.
The full parade used to pass through the gates until 2006.
Although the annual Whiterock parade has passed off peacefully in recent years, a determination by the Parades Commission means Saturday’s event will be unable to pass through the peace line gates at Workman Avenue.
Speaking following a meeting on Thursday with representatives of LOL No.9 District Belfast, Arlene Foster MLA issued a statement which said: “I have met with organisers of the No 9 district parade on Saturday and listened to their concerns about the way they have been treated by the Parades Commission.
“I indicated to them that I am sympathetic to the concerns they have raised and I am of the view that the Parades Commission have been unjustified and completely misguided in not permitting some of the Orangemen from proceeding through the Workman Avenue gates.
“I am particularly concerned about the justification offered by the Parades Commission to refuse access through the gates at Workman Avenue.
“In the determination the Commission claims that what they describe as recent developments in public policy as outlined in the Fresh Start Agreement mean that the gates cannot be opened without cross-community support.
“This is not the case.
“A further reference to a committee report from the former OFMDFM committee of the Assembly is bizarre in that committees of the Assembly do not set public policy.
“It would appear the Parades Commission have simply decided to use irrelevant considerations to justify this decision.
“I intend to write to the Commission in more detail to highlight the flawed nature of what they claim is the justification for their decision.
“I would appeal to all those involved on the parade on Saturday to recognise the fact that while we may not agree with the determination it is currently the Parades Commission who determine these matters until such times as the law is changed.”