‘We want to give a voice back to the people on the ground’ says Casp spokes man.
NATIONALIST residents from areas across the North of Ireland with contentious Orange Order parades have joined forces to form an umbrella group to oppose sectarian loyalist marches. Communities Against Sectarian Parades (CASP) iinvolves people from the Short Strand in East Belfast, Springfield Road in West Belfast and the North Belfast flashpoint Ardoyne.
There is also representation from rural areas such as Rasharkin in Co Antrim and Newtownbutler in Co Fermanagh. The group said it had support from an alternative Carrick Hill residents group set up in recent weeks to oppose marches past St Patrick’s Church in Donegal Street, although there was no-one from the area present at the meeting held in the Ardoyne community centre. Its membership is made of groups who have formed in areas where there were already residents associations. It argues that the exsisting groups have been rendered “ineffective due to political interferance”. “They are controlled by a political party and we want to give a voice back to the people on the ground,” spokesman Sean Hanna from the Rasharkin Residents Collective said. Mr Hanna said the decisions on whether to meet with the police or hold talks with the Orange Order or Parades Commission would remain up to the individual groups.
He said the strength of the collective was its unified supportive role. “Our coalition will aim to highlight and confront the denial of our human rights to live free from sectarian harassment that is associated with sectarian marches,” he said. “We beleive in a holistic approach to confront these marches. Mr Hanna would not say if the collective has planned any joint protests in the run-up to the Twelfth saying that was “yet to be decided”. While Casp was announcing its formation to a panel of journalists, a meeting was taking place in a separate room of the community centre involving Galway Fianna Fail TD Eamon O’Cuiv, residents and members of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective. Aidan Ferguson was one of the people who meet with the justice committee member. He said that they discussed a number of issues connected to loyalist parades which pass the nationalst interface. “It was a very positive meeting and we will be formally inviting him to act as an independant observer during the July marches,” Mr Ferguson said. The Irish News contacted Mr O’Cuiv’s office about the meeting but did not receive a response.
Collective attempt to usurp Sinn Fein.
THE formation of a new umbrella group to oppose loyalist parades may on the surface seem fairly run-of-the-mill but it could have political ramifications. Communities Against Sectarian Parades (CASP) involves residents who have broken away from existing groups – groups that contain members or supporters of Sinn Fein. The party has traditionally acted as the voice of communites dirctly impacted by loyalist marches. This new collective is an attempt to usurp Sinn Fein.
The residents groups in the collective involve a range of people, including republicans who would be considered dissident and actively opposed to Sinn Fein’s political strategy. Until now these grops have done little to upset the status quo, with numbers small and protests haphazard. However, an organised collective brings with it strength in numbers and some members who advocate a more hardline approach to opposing parades, Casp could have a destablising influnance. With tensions already high this marching season following a winter of loyalist violence and unrest linked to the Union Flag dispute at Belfast City Hall, Casp’s impact will bear close observation in the coming weeks.
With many thanks to : Allison Morris, Irish News.
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