The Orange Order says the Parades Commission has “rewarded violence” by placing restrictions on a traditional Battle of the Somme parade in Coleraine.
The order had applied to have 15 lodges and 15 bands – some 1,000 people – parade through the town on Wednesday 1 July, on a traditional route which it has walked along for at least 50 years on this date, in memory of those from the town who lost their lives in the First World War.
However, the commission has ruled that only one lodge and one band will be allowed into Pates Lane and through the Heights area of the town, as it had “concerns about the scale, manner and route of a parade through the sensitive residential area of Pates Lane and Somerset Drive”.
SDLP MLA John Dallat pointed out that this is where the late Kevin McDaid lost his life after being attacked by a loyalist mob in May 2009, although the Order said that its members had not been involved.
Robert McIlreavey, secretary of Killowen Orange Lodge, said he had walked the route on this date annually since he joined the lodge in 1969.
Only in the past few years has the route been challenged or restricted and only 14 houses in the Heights area are now nationalist, he said.
Originally, 44 houses in the Heights area were home to someone killed or injured in the First World War, including many nationalists, he said, therefore some nationalists from the Heights area did and still do support the parade
The PSNI report from last year, he said, said that five nationalists were arrested during the parade and another 14 afterwards, with five loyalists – who had no connection with the parade – arrested later.
“The Orange Order has at all times obeyed the legal requirements on us regarding this parade, which the PSNI report clearly shows,” he said.
“And yet the finger of blame seems to be pointed at us for last year. We acted completely within the law but, once again, the threat of violence pays.”
But Mr Dallat supported the restrictions, saying he had visited the site of the Battle of the Somme and fully supported cross-community work to raise awareness of those who lost their lives there.
“I would fully support commemorations for the Battle of the Somme being carried out, but without the involvement of an Orange Order parade,” he said.