Muted willingness on both sides to obey parade ruling


ORANGEMEN AND nationalist representatives have indicated a muted willingness to abide by a Parades Commission ruling placing some restrictions on Saturday’s centenary Ulster Covenant parade in Belfast.

The responses from the loyal order and nationalists have raised guarded hopes that the massive Orange Order parade commemorating the centenary of the signing of the anti-Irish Home Rule Ulster Covenant would pass off without major incident.

The commission has instructed that only sacred music be played when a feeder parade of some 2,000 Orangemen and band members passes by St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Belfast on Saturday morning, and in the evening.

St Patrick’s Church and the Carrick Hill area became a flashpoint when a loyalist band played sectarian music outside it on the Twelfth of July.

This was exacerbated in August when during a Royal Black Institution parade the same band marched and bands played music when passing the church, in contravention of commission rulings. There was rioting later in the nearby Carlisle Circus area of north Belfast as a result of these tensions.

In a statement, the Orange Order did not make a commitment to observe this ruling, merely saying it noted it. It has already offered only to play hymns when passing the church on the outward and return journeys on Saturday.

“The institution will do everything possible to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant with respect and dignity,” it added.

Nationalist politicians and community representatives expressed disappointment that the commission did not insist bands should only play low-key drum beats when proceeding past the church at Donegall Street in the Carrick Hill area. However, commitments were given that nationalist protests against the parade would be “peaceful and dignified”.

Frank Dempsey, chairman of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents group, said: “The message that we are sending out quite clearly to our residents, to people who are going to come, is: listen, we need a peaceful, dignified protest. We aren’t the offenders here, we are the offended.”

It is expected that up 30,000 order members and members of up to 200 loyalist bands will participate in the main parade from Belfast City Hall to the grounds of Stormont on Saturday.