Unionists voice their concerns on parades

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Unionist politicians have raised ‘grave concerns’ with the Parades Commission over their handling of parading in the town.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson alongside Upper Bann TUV Chairman and Apprentice Boy’s of Derry spokesman Roy Ferguson met with Parades Commission officials in Belfast last Friday to discuss the issue.

Mrs Dobson said: “At the beginning of August the Commission restricted the annual Apprentice Boy’s ‘Derry Day’ parades, while at the same time were content to allow a planned parade by the ‘Anti Internment’ Committee Armagh to go ahead unrestricted.

“As the result of last minute lobbying by a number of local representatives - including Roy on behalf of the TUV, Councillor Colin McCusker and myself - we managed to ensure that restrictions were placed on the ‘Anti Interment’ parade.

“On that occasion I wrote to both the Commission and the Secretary of State to again raise my concerns about the parading situation in William Street which has for many years been subject to tension and restrictions. It is clear to many who are observing the Parades Commission’s attitude to parading in Lurgan that they are operating a two-tier approach, and Roy and I wanted to take our grave concerns to them in person.”

Mr Ferguson said: “In a lengthy meeting with senior officials we discussed the process they adopt in relation to processing a parade application. Jo-Anne and I raised our concerns that an ABOD parade application form would not be accepted unless it was fully completed, however the PSNI were apparently able to grade the Anti Internment parade on August 8 as posing no risk of public disorder - even though the form for that parade was not fully completed.

“When an ABOD parade also planned for William St on the same evening is graded as representing a ‘high potential for public disorder’ this raises serious questions, which we will be asking directly to the PSNI.

“Many people, including myself, have worked tirelessly for over twenty years to reach an agreement on parading in William St and all we ask for when it comes to the Parades Commission is that they work alongside us to reach that agreement, rather than make decisions which have the potential to further raise community tension in Lurgan.

”I pay tribute to those people who raised their concerns with the Parades Commission around the Anti Internment Committee parade which resulted in it being reassessed by the Commission and restrictions were placed upon it.

Mrs Dobson added: “When it comes to parading it cannot be one set of rules for one community and a totally different set for another.”