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Nationalists seek ban on marches outside churches

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

Nationalists last night (Wednesday) called on the Parades Commission to ban a loyalist band from marching past two Catholic churches in Co Antrim later this month.

A Royal Black Preceptory feeder parade is due to pass through the Co Antrim villages of Carnlough and Glenarm on August 25 evening while making its way back from the main parade in Ballymoney.

However, nationalists have asked the Parades Commission to ban the feeder parade from passing St John the Evangelist Church in Carnlough and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in nearby Glenarm when Mass is due to take place.

Last month the Parades Commission was forced to make a last minute ruling on a similar march after it emerged that, despite reassurances, 1,000 Orangemen had intended to parade passed the Catholic church in Carnlough on July 12 evening.

A smaller feeder parade was allowed to pass the Catholic church.

Sinn Féin councillor Oliver McMullan claimed that tensions in the area had remained high since July 12.

"This band is actually having to make a detour on its way back from Ballymoney just to march through what is a predominantly nationalist village," he said.

"People will see it as no coincidence that the parade organisers have lodged to march passed the two Catholic churches when mass is due to take place on the Saturday evening."

Mr McMullan claimed that sectarian tunes had been played while the parade was passing the Catholic church in 2006.

"In Glenarm UVF and UDA flags have been erected outside the church," he said.

"We see this as a deliberate attempt to increase community tensions."

Mr McMullan said that, despite repeated offers, parade organisers had refused all offers of dialogue with nationalist residents.

"Even at this late stage we are calling for talks to ensure that this issue can be resolved.

"We see the loyal orders being willing to talk to nationalist residents groups in other areas and can't understand why they are continuing to refuse to talk to nationalists in Carnlough and Glenarm."

DUP councillor Davy McAllister also called for dialogue.

"I remember republican parades in Ballycastle during which rebel songs were played outside a Protestant church and I didn't hear Sinn Féin condemning it then," he said.

"People should be allowed to go to their place of worship in peace.

"Surely to goodness there could be some sort of compromise worked out between all sides to ensure that this thing does not turn into a bone of contention.

"If people keep level heads I am sure something could be worked out."

August 5, 2007

This article appeared first in the August 2, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News