Unionist representatives have defended the raising of an Orange arch in Co Antrim after dissident republicans branded the move ‘illegal and sectarian’.
Members of Carnmoney District LOL 25 erected their arch in Glengormley last night ahead of this year’s marching season.
The arch has been placed in the Antrim Road area since 1983 with a section of the carriageway closed to traffic to facilitate its construction.
While the arch was being raised, activists from the Belfast branch of dissident republican political party Saoradh took to social media to slam the event.
Posting on Facebook, a party spokesperson alleged: “Having been contacted by local residents, Saoradh Béal Feirste condemn the annual display of sectarian bigotry via an illegal Orange arch in the centre of Glengormley being built this evening.”
Claiming the demographics of Glengormley are changing to the extent that the immediate area is mainly nationalist, the spokesperson continued the display should be removed immediately “as it simply exists in order to try and intimidate the majority community in the local area”.
Glengormley DUP representative Phillip Brett has called on Saoradh to withdraw their statement.
Cllr Brett said: “The Orange arch has been erected in Glengormley for over 35 years by members of the local Orange District in advance of the main annual parades.
“It has no connection to illegal activity or to paramilitarism. Such a claim is a disgraceful slur on the local Orange Order community.
“Glengormley is a shared community where people of all traditions respect their neighbours’ culture and their right to enjoy it. Those from outside the area trying to raise tensions will fail.”
Cllr Brett’s party colleague, Cllr Stephen Ross said: “The arch has been and will continue to be erected legally, not as stated by this group.
“This is another attempt to raise tensions in an area where most people get on with their lives peacefully.”
Defending the raising of the arch, a spokesperson for the north Belfast branch of the Progressive Unionist Party said: “Over the years this arch has suffered sectarian attacks. However, the dedicated members involved ensure that all the legal requirements are met and the arch is maintained.
“The arch has been located in this location since 1983 and continues to be an important part of the cultural expression of our community.”