CONCERN has been expressed over proposals which could see two major loyalist parades scheduled for Ormeau Park next year.
The South Belfast News recently reported on blueprints for a parade and fun day at the park to mark the centenary of the “Balmoral Review” - Edward Carson’s anti-Home Rule rally of May 1912.
Now plans are also underway by the Orange Order to host yet another march to the park, this time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. An application to display a huge orange lily symbol in the park’s main flowerbed marking 125 years of a local lodge is also being considered.
The Council’s Parks and Leisure Committee has recommended that the May parade go ahead, after the request by the Shankill-based Unionist Centenary Committee’s (UCC) application. Stakeholders for the UCC include loyal orders, marching bands, and unionist political parties.
However, organisers have been warned that “paramilitary emblems”, often seen at Twelfth celebrations, or the burning and defacing of national flags is forbidden.
Meanwhile, the Orange Order have said Ormeau Park could also be the location for a parade and large event next September 28 to mark the centenary of “Ulster Day” when almost half a million people signed a protest against Home Rule, some in their own blood.
The Order have also suggested Strangford Playing Fields, and Barnetts Demesne -= both in South Belfast also – as alternative locations.
A local Sinn Fein Councillor told the South Belfast News that the plans could “extend” the traditional Orange marching season in South Belfast.
Laganbank rep Deirdre Hargey said: “We are particularly concerned about the latest proposals for the September parade, and would like a bit more clarity about feeder parades and how the marchers want to get to the park,” she said.
“This would basically extend the marching season through to the end of September, bringing with it additional demand for resources including police. Our parks and playgrounds are supposed to be places open to all sections of the community, and this could go against that ethos.”
However, South Belfast DUP Councillor Chris Stalford told this paper: “There’s a whole range of centenaries coming up, and it’s important that all events are treated with respect and tolerance.
“Those who feel these events are not for them should recognise they are important for others in this city.”
No one from the Orange Order was available for comment.