In a year which has already witnessed serious disorder at interface areas the last thing we need is an additional contentious march which will inevitably heighten tensions. The news that a loyalist band parade is due to take place next week close to the Tigers Bay and New Lodge flashpoint in North Belfast is a worrying development which will cause considerable dismay.
This area has been the scene of repeated sectarian clashs over the years but, thanks to the combined efforts of community workers, the number of incidents has fallen significantly. It is therefore alarming that permission has been sought for a Parade in Tigers Bay with 17 Bands and 600 supporters to march to the North Queen Street interface next Friday Evening.
The march is intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Glen Branagh, a 16-year-old killed when a pipe bomb he was about to throw exploded in his hand. His death took place against the backdrop of the Holy Cross protest which led to the increased sectarian violence and bitter division in North Belfast. It is those types of scenes we should be taking steps to avoid, with cross-comunity approach encorouged.
Of particular concern is the suggestion that dissident Loyalists allied to former UDA leader Andre Shoukri are backing this Parade. Any such involvement can only be viewed with a sense of foreboding. The Parades Commission has not placed any restrictions on this march and it is disapointing it has not taken fuller account of the concerns expressed by Nationalists residents earlier this week. The Commision has called for a ” restrained and respectfull ” march and we can be very sure that this isn’t going to happen.