Two Easter Monday Apprentice Boys marches are facing restrictions from Parades Commission

Two Easter Monday Apprentice Boys parades have been deemed “sensitive” and have had curbs imposed by the Parades Commission.
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More than two dozen are taking place across Northern Ireland to mark the start of the Siege of Londonderry on April 18, 1689.

The two ABOD parades on Monday which have been deemed “sensitive” by the Parades Commission are in south Belfast (arranged by the Belfast Walker Club), and Castlederg (organised by the Garvetagh branch).

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The first one is set to begin at 8.30am in the upper Ormeau Road’s Ballynafeigh Orange Hall.

22/04/2019: The Apprentice Boys annual Easter Monday parade in east Belfast22/04/2019: The Apprentice Boys annual Easter Monday parade in east Belfast
22/04/2019: The Apprentice Boys annual Easter Monday parade in east Belfast

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

Marchers would then be bussed to Enniskillen, before returning at the end of the day by bus to return along much the same route.

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

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This time is no exception: the Parades’ Commission determination says the organisers have “expressed frustration at the refusal of the residents to meet with them”.

Cross-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.

The commission said if the route goes ahead as planned on Monday there could be "public disorder” and “an adverse impact on community relations”.

As such, it has banned the march from crossing the Ormeau Bridge from upper Ormeau to lower Ormeau.

A similar ban was put in place last autumn.

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At that time, Apprentice Boys’ general secretary Billy Moore told the News Letter that he thinks the last time they were allowed to parade down the road was around 2001.

He said significant efforts had been made by organisers to reach out to lower Ormeau objectors over the years, but “no matter what they do” the answer is the same.

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The other “sensitive” parade on Monday is in Castlederg, going from Albert Street car park at 9am and then getting on a bus to Enniskillen, before returning that night to complete the parade.

The commission has said that “significant effort that has been undertaken by stakeholders to resolve parading issues in Castlederg… this has resulted in a number of similar parades no longer being considered sensitive”.

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But it added that the route for this one includes “the sensitive areas of Ferguson Crescent, Killeter Road and Priest's Lane in both the morning and return routes”, and there had been “no engagement” over that.

As such, there is the potential for “negative impacts on community relations”, so the parade has been banned from those streets and must instead go by Main Street, John Street, High Street and to the Lurganbuoy Road, resuming the remainder of its notified route.

Billy Moore told the News Letter he hopes any outstanding problems “can be resolved before it comes to August”, when ABOD stages major marches to mark the lifting of the siege of Londonderry.

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