The PSNI is investigating after sectarian music was allegedly played near a Catholic church on a Remembrance Day march in a flashpoint area.
A band taking part in the Apprentice Boys of Derry parade on Saturday morning began to play ‘The Famine Song’ — an anti-Catholic song judged racist by a court in Scotland — inside an area where the Parades Commission ruled only hymns could be played.
The alleged breach, which occurred in the same area of north Belfast where several nights of rioting erupted in August and September when loyalists and nationalists held parades, sparked outrage among residents.
But last night the bands involved in the parade hit back and accused nationalist residents of breaching Parades Commission determinations by “physically assaulting” bandsmen, spitting at them and shouting verbal abuse.
The Apprentice Boys of Derry and Belfast and District Amalgamated Committee admitted that a band played music in the restricted zone, but insisted senior members “immediately moved to have the band cease playing”.
Despite the fallout, the committee said it is keen to continue to have dialogue with residents to resolve the parades issue there.
There was a heavy security presence in the vicinity of St Patrick’s Church on Saturday when the parade went down Donegall Street.
The Parades Commission had determined that marchers could only play hymns on their way past the church, but residents have furiously claimed that the restrictions were flouted by the Dunmurry Protestant Boys’ band.
“This was supposed to be a Remembrance Day service with sacred hymns being played and what did we have? A determination again smashed,” said Frank Dempsey, of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents’ Group.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly accused the loyal orders of “not stepping up to the mark in trying to move past conflict and into a new phase of reconciliation” and claimed “their intransigence” is encouraged by unionist politicians.
The PSNI said it was “made aware of an alleged breach of the musical determination at Clifton Street”.
A spokesman added that police have also been made aware of an allegation of assault on a member of the parade.
Some 14 members of a loyalist band who were taking part in the annual Orange parade on July 12, were arrested last month after police viewed footage of them allegedly marching in circles outside St Patrick’s church playing sectarian music.
Tensions in north Belfast have remained high ever since a loyalist band was filmed marching outside St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Donegall Street allegedly playing sectarian music on July 12. There were several nights of rioting in the area in August and September following loyalist and nationalist parades.