March highlights loyalist divisions

The sharp divisions within Ulster loyalism were publicly encapsulated yesterday when the new marching season's first disputed parade passed off without serious incident in south Belfast.

A small parade of the Apprentice Boys of Derry marched towards the Catholic section of the Ormeau road but then, as promised, veered away from a line of Royal Ulster Constabulary Land Rovers and were taken on their way by coach.

Their conduct was applauded by police, who were relieved that the first potential flashpoint of the season had been successfully negotiated, but heckled by people accusing them of cowardice in the face of nationalist opposition.

Although only a small number of marchers and a few dissidents were involved, their comments summed up the running debate taking place in loyalist circles. One tendency believes that the right to march should take precedence over all else, while the other feels the avoidance of conflict should have priority.

Tommy Cheevers of the Apprentice Boys said they had taken their decision to give Northern Ireland a breathing space because the country could not afford a repeat of last year's clashes.

He said most of the protesters were members of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, adding: "There are always those in our society, unfortunately, who are just bigots and can't see anything. They only have small lives to live, but I have to say the majority of people realise the moves we're making here.

"We're not prepared to bring confrontation on to our own streets. We have proved we are tolerant people who are prepared to compromise. We have taken all the tension out of the air - people do not want another situation like last July."

Among the more repeatable catcalls from loyalist protesters was "Yellow bastards". Among the dissenters was Pauline Gilmore, whose boyfriend was shot dead by the IRA 16 years ago. She and the others felt the marchers should have made some gesture before turning away: "People feel disgusted, they feel betrayed, they don't understand why there is no form of protest at all."

Meanwhile, debate continued on the significance of remarks by Labour's Mo Mowlam, who at the weekend suggested that in the event of an immediate IRA ceasefire Sinn Fein could enter multi-party talks in Belfast by the summer.

Sources close to Tony Blair, the Labour leader, insisted that there was no chance of Labour sanctioning any meeting with Sinn Fein. However, Ms Mowlam's comments have created speculation that Labour in government might show more flexibility than the Conservatives.

Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis said he was worried by her remarks, while Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said he regarded the comments as "quite encouraging".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions