Violence flares as Orange Order demands right to march in Catholic area
Police injured by rioters as they stop marchers from entering nationalist area
Speaking at a parade in Derry earlier this week Stevenson claimed that republicans were engaged in a cultural war to erode all the symbols of Britishness in Northern Ireland. Stevenson also reportedly noted that the commissions decision followed Belfast City Council's decision last year to restrict the flying of the Union Flag from the City Hall from 365 days to designated days.
But the County Tyrone farmer reserved his fiercest criticism for the Parades Commission, mistrusted by the Orange Order for insisting they not parade though some flashpoint areas.
‘Recent days have also demonstrated the increasing incompetence of the Parades Commission as it continues on its relentless crusade to denigrate Orangeism and the values we hold dear,’ Stevenson said, blasting the independent body that is made up of figures appointed by the Government and led by community work veteran Peter Osborne.
Stevenson added: ‘I call on the Secretary of State to immediately cease offering this unelected quango life support; and finally put it out of its misery - for the good of all in Northern Ireland.’
Nationalists take a different view, often seeing the Parades Commission as the only impartial referee between the two communities over contentious march routes.
The Parades Commission's decision to stop Orangemen marching through Ardoyne on their return from their Belfast gathering was taken in the light of years of serious violence that followed each march.
Local residents claim the annual parade caused major inconvenience, hemming them into their area for hours whilst the police facilitated all the visiting bands and lodges.
Critics have also pointed to the increasingly hardline tone of Dodds and Stevenson in the days before the rioting for goading the political tensions that boiled over last night.
Earlier in the week Stevenson, joined by the leaders of the Orange Order in Scotland and England, told crowds in Derry that loyalists faced an almost daily onslaught on their British culture and heritage.
‘Not content having subjected this province to terror and mayhem through a murderous campaign, and trying their best to rewrite history in an attempt to justify their vile actions, republicans are now engaging in a cultural war to erode all symbols of Britishness from this part of the United Kingdom,’ he said.
‘The shameful decision to strip down the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall, following on from the outrageous naming of a children's play park in Newry after an IRA terrorist, are just some examples of the so-called 'shared future' envisaged by Sinn Fein.’
Stevenson also expressed his strong opposition to the proposed construction of a conflict resolution centre at the former Maze prison which housed paramilitaries near Belfast.
‘We will simply not countenance the very real prospect of a terrorist shrine manifesting itself at the very site where those who inflicted nothing but anguish and sorrow upon the law-abiding majority were quite rightly incarcerated for their horrific crimes,’ he said.
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