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Sinn Fein meets Parades Commission over Bessbrook ‘flagship Twelfth’

Concerns raised by Bessbrook residents in relation to an upcoming parade in the village was the focus of a recent meeting between the Parades Commission and Sinn Fein politicians, the party has said.

MP Mickey Brady and Councillor Roisin Mulgrew met with representatives of the Commission on Wednesday to address issues raised surrounding the planned Orange Order ‘flagship’ demonstration to be held in Bessbrook on 13th July.

Mr Brady says the crux of concerns is a lack of consultation with the community and little or no indication of how the event will impact on residents and businesses in the model village.

“The organisers intend on bringing a huge number of people into the area but residents haven’t been given any information on how they intend to deal with issues like parking, access to local amenities, traffic control, road closures, emergency services access etc.  This is a particularly important issue for carers who may need to access multiple parts of the area multiple times a day,” Mr Brady said.

Bessbrook will host the largest of this year’s 18 demonstrations to be held on 13th July.  Organisers have hailed the event – which has been given flagship status – as an enhanced cultural experience and say spectators will be treated to a carnival atmosphere.  The flagship status allows parades to broaden their appeal and draw a wider tourism audience.

Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said some residents had also raised questions over some aspects of the route.

“A number of residents came to us quite concerned that the parade will be returning from the field and going past the Orange Hall before dispersing in a residential area.  Surely the sensible thing to do would be to end the parade at the Orange Hall and disperse there rather causing further disruption in a residential area,” she said.

Councillor Mulgrews says there will be up on 75 bands and around 15,000 people taking part in the demonstration.

“That’s a huge number of people to bring into what is a relatively small area and I simply cannot see the sense in bringing all those people back into a residential area when the hall would be a perfectly reasonable place to disperse.

“It’s also worth remember that the demographics of the area have changed over the past number of years and the construction of several new housing developments means a large number of people will effectively be hemmed into their homes for the duration of the parade or even longer if there isn’t a definite plan in place for returning the area to normality once the parade ends,” she added.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson said he is looking forward to parading in County Armagh “the birthplace of Orangeism”.

“The County Armagh demonstration is traditionally the largest demonstration which take place in Northern Ireland, and this year will be no exception with thousands of participants, spectators and many tourists enjoying the carnival atmosphere,” he said.