Residents angered when a loyalist band played 'sectarian' tunes outside a Belfast chapel have not been among the delegation of Catholics invited for talks with the Orange Order ahead of next week's Ulster Covenant parade.
The congregation of St. Patrick's at Donegall Street, have been invited, however, along with the Bishop of Down and Connor, to the Grand Lodge of Ireland's headquarters to view its exhibition on Orange Order culture and heritage ahead of the parade on Saturday, September 29.
Tens of thousands of Orangemen and supporters are expected to turn out on the streets to mark the historic day in 1912 when the Ulster Covenant against Home Rule in Ireland was signed by unionists.
On Monday, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland invited the parishioners of the church to Orange headquarters, Schomberg House in east Belfast, along with Bishop Noel Treanor, when it was also confirmed that during the Covenant Day parade, only hymns would be played outside the church.
But yesterday, parish priest of St. Patrick's, Fr Michael Sheehan said that the "quiet, frank and constructive conversations" the Order reported that they had held with parties connected to the church had failed to include members of the nearby Carrick Hill Concerned Residents.
The moves by the Order and statement from Father Sheehan follow a furore when members of a loyalist flute band breached a Parades' Commission ruling and played music outside the church on August 25, prompting Protestant church leaders and Bishop Treanor, to brand their actions "sectarian".
At the time of going to press yesterday, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said his party had gained the support of Sinn Fein in its efforts to have DSD Minister Nelson McCausland excluded from his post for three months for his failure to condemn the violence.
In its statement on Monday, the Grand Orange Lodge said there had been "an unhealthy focus on the parade at a point where no previous contention existed", namely outside St. Patrick's.
Referring to the incident outside the chapel, the Order said statements had already been made to clarify "that for any inadvertent offence caused, no hurt was intended.
"The apologies offered have been graciously accepted by the Clergy in St Patrick's as genuine.
"Additionally, quiet, frank and constructive conversations have taken place with the clergy and parishioners, as the Institution sought; to defuse tensions around the forthcoming Covenant parade, and build relationships by listening to views raised and explaining our position in respect of parading, music and the Parades Commission.
"In a respectful and sincere effort to address what we heard and following further conversations with local districts, bands, community representatives, political leaders and locally elected representatives, the Ulster Covenant centenary parade on 29 September when passing St Patrick's, which will be open will play hymns. The return parade in the early evening will show similar respect."
It added that the Orange Institution was "committed to civil and religious liberty for all and developing a programme of mutual understanding that begins to rebuild Christian neighbourliness and a return to normality."
The statement prompted praise from unionist figures, including DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds who said the decision to play only hymns whilst passing St Patrick's "in order to demonstrate respect and to address issues raised by the Church will be seen by all right thinking people as entirely reasonable".
But yesterday Fr Sheehan hit back by saying he was disappointed that Carrick Hill Concerned Residents, "who reached out with no objection to parades in principle or specific requirements for re-routing, will not be engaged with in any way. I am also bewildered that they are being excluded from 'the conversations'," he said.
Conceding that the Order's decision to only play hymns when passing the church was "definitively an improvement on what happened on the last Saturday in August", he added, "but this suggestion is no substitute for real and meaningful dialogue".
"As has been stated previously I am committed to do everything that I can to ease the tensions in the parish concerning parades and I am willing to continue to work with all interested parties to bring this about," the priest added.