N ationalist politicians have called on organisers of a controversial anti-Home Rule commemoration festival to meet them face-to-face to allay fears over parades to the Ormeau Park event.
The massive rally, which is being held next month to mark the 100th anniversary of a famous loyalist demonstration in Balmoral, has caused divisions at Belfast City Council with questions over how participants, including Orangemen and loyalist flute bands, will get to the park.
The issue was debated this week at City Hall’s monthly council meeting, when a decision to defer discussion on the plans until more information on parades leading to the park was available, was voted down.
Neither Sinn Féin nor the SDLP stood against the overall proposals by the Joint Unionist Centenary Committee (JUCC). Yet despite claims from organisers that they have been “open” in terms of plans, a Sinn Féin councillor says more needs to be done to ease overall concerns.
Deirdre Hargey said there was simply not enough information on how parades from across the city will get to the park.
Organisers have said details of the parade will be lodged 28 days before the event, which is the shortest amount of time for such information to be given.
Deirdre Hargey believes that if organisers are serious about being open about plans for the event then issues such as these should not be “taken to the wire”.
“We believe details should have been made available as early as last year, when this was announced,” she said.
“We need the JUCC to be open and honest about this as we are not against the celebration of unionist culture, but have a legitimate concern about how any parading could affect residents on the routes.
“We need face-to-face discussions so that we don’t have a scenario where the marching season is beginning a month or two early.”
Speaking to the South Belfast News, the JUCC’s Stephen Gough denied “feeder parades” would cause issues insisiting they were being open about their plans, and were “certainly not hiding anything.”
“There will only be one main parade to the park, from Donegall Street, through East Belfast, to the destination at Ormeau Park,” he said.
However he added that those taking part will have made their way along “short distances” from Sandy Row, the Shankill and North Belfast’s Orange Hall to the city centre starting point
“As for the council rules, we will be adhering very strictly to them, and there will be no burning of flags or paramilitary displays, that’s not what this is about at all, and when visitors come they will see that for themselves.”