BELFAST ( - A British-controlled commission in Northern Ireland on Friday banned a Protestant parade that had been set to move through a Catholic neighborhood on the first day of the troubled province's "marching season."

      The province is gripped with tension between republican Catholics and loyalist Protestants each year at the start of the marching season, when Protestants hold parades to commemorate historic victories and affirm their British identity. The Parades Commission, established by the British government last year to regulate the parades, banned the parade by the Apprentice Boys group which had been set to march through south Belfast on Easter Monday, April 13.

      The chairman of the commission, Alistair Graham, said it had not been an easy decision. "In the final analysis, however, we have been most concerned about the impact that a parade along the Lower Ormeau Road at this time would have on relationships within the community," Graham told a news conference.

      Although most parades are held without violence, there have been riots during some marches over the past three years. With multi-party peace talks approaching their deadline on April 13, the British and Irish governments have been counseling calm to avoid sparking increased tensions.

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April 6, 1998 volume 9, no. 68         DAILY CATHOLIC