A major unionist parade through Belfast on Saturday could set the tone for other sensitive commemorations, the Parades Commission says.
The march, organised by the Orange Order and the Unionist Centenary Committee, marks the 100th anniversary of rally to Balmoral, opposing the proposed Home Rule Bill of 1912.
Celebrations got underway in Ormeau Park on Friday, but some concerns have been raised after it was revealed former paramilitaries will march alongside Orangemen and Apprentice Boys.
Police expect around 60 bands and more than 5,500 supporters to take part – but organisers say it has the potential to be bigger than the 12th July celebrations.
“It’s a major day for the whole unionist community as it starts the public commemorations of our Ulster covenant events”, said Mervyn Gibson.
“It will be the same atmosphere, people out to watch and enjoy themselves and we want everybody to have a good day so we hope it will mirror the Twelfth in many respects.”
The first parade will set off from Ballynafeigh in the Ormeau area at 9am. It will wind its way through Stranmillis before arriving at Sandy Row in south Belfast just before 10am.
Marchers will set off Sandy Row at 10am and also from Clifton Park Avenue and Shankill Road in north Belfast at the same time.
The parades will make their way to Donegall Street in the city centre before merging. All bands and marchers will then parade through the city towards Ormeau Park.
Marchers will then return along the same routes in afternoon parades beginning at 4pm.
It is understood that loyalists will not take part in the return parades as a “gesture” to nationalists who had raised concerns about trouble at interface areas.
However, while the parade will not travel along the mainly nationalist area of the Lower Ormeau Road, it has, in the past, been a flashpoint for trouble.
Community leaders have told UTV they have held talks with parade organisers and remain confident that everything has been done to ensure the day passes off without incident.
A spokesperson for the Parades Commission said: “The Balmoral Review parade has the potential to set the tone for how other events are approached and perceived.”
The Commission said they acknowledged “the work undertaken by many in the build-up to the Balmoral Review parade” and said it hoped “all parties involved will mark the event with respect for not just the past, but for the present and each other.”
Meanwhile, motorists are being warned of traffic delays the parades take place, with police saying they will do their utmost to keep disruption to a minimum.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : UTV News.
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