‘Carson Parade’ park plan row

By Paul Ainsworth

A UNIONIST parade celebrating Edward Carson and the anti-Home Rule campaign  which led to partition could be relocated to Ormeau Park, it’s been revealed.

Originally planned to take place in Strangford playing fields at the rear of the King’s Hall, the ‘parade and fun day’ is being organised by the Shankill-based Joint Unionist Commemoration Committee (JUCC) to commemorate a large anti-Home Rule rally in the spring of 1912 which became known as the ‘Balmoral Review’.

That event took place in the Balmoral showgrounds and featured UVF founder Edward Carson. However, those behind the parade, set to involve Orangemen and loyalist flute bands, have been unable to secure a site near Balmoral and are now seeking permission to use Ormeau Park.

Concerns over the original Carson parade plan, expressed by South Belfast SDLP Councillor Claire Hanna, were attacked at a recent meeting of Belfast City Council, where the DUP’s Christopher Stalford said they amounted to “denigrating the traditions of a community”.

Ms Hanna had told this paper she was unhappy to see taxpayers’ cash go towards a celebration of the “undemocratic events” which led to the foundation of Northern Ireland, and the recent meeting saw heated exchanges over this newspaper’s report.

Mr Stalford also suggested to the chamber that Ormeau Park would make a suitable venue and that is now being considered.

Stephen Gough of the JUCC told the South Belfast News this week that any parade to the park would avoid the Ormeau Road – which has a history of contentious parades.

“We are submitting a formal request for Ormeau Park, but things are still at a very early stage,” he said. “This will be a community parade, for the community, by the community, and we have no intention of causing disruption. It’s a celebration of unionist culture through music, dance and poetry.”

He added that he hoped between 5,000 and 10,000 people could attend the event recalling the anti-Home Rule campaign – an event which would feature a short religious service.

Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community said following the unveiling of the plans: “We have no comment to make about events taking place in the park, which don’t affect residents of the Lower Ormeau. We would only be concerned should the route to the park pass by us.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Belfast City Council confirmed the Ormeau Park request was now being dealt with.

“This is due to go before the next meeting of the Council’s centenary working group, and will then be raised at the November meeting of the Parks and Leisure Committee,” said the spokesperson.

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