Belfast Telegraph

Appeal for calm ahead of contested 'Tour of the North' parade in Belfast

By Chris Kilpatrick

Marchers, protesters and band supporters have been told their behaviour during a contentious parade in north Belfast could determine whether Northern Ireland faces another summer of violence.

The Tour of the North, which takes place this evening, has been marred by fierce clashes in the past.

The Parades Commission has placed a number of restrictions on the loyal orders parade, which is due to get under way from 6.30pm.

Last year's event resulted in controversy after Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly was embroiled in an altercation with police.

The Policing Board member received a caution after he was carried on the front of a PSNI Land Rover as officers left the Carrick Hill area.

Yesterday he said it was vital discussions took place between parade organisers and nationalist residents.

And he urged those on all sides to ensure the event passes off peacefully.

"The Tour of the North parades can often set the tone for the summer and I'm appealing for calm on Friday evening," he said.

The Orange Order previously accused the parading watchdog of squandering an opportunity to alleviate sectarian tensions ahead of the first major parade of the marching season.

The commission last week ruled just a single drumbeat can be played as marchers pass St Patrick's Church at Donegall Street.

The ruling came after the Order said only hymns would be played – a move welcomed by clergy at the church.

Supporters have been told they must not accompany marchers past the church, and those taking part must not stop outside the place of worship.

Restrictions were also placed on a protest by the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group.

A total of 50 people are allowed to protest against the march at two areas on Donegall Street and Trinity Street.

Residents in the area have previously called on police to act on what they say are "constant" breaches of the Parades Commission's determinations – claiming bands had played music other than hymns.

The commission also barred a march by Ballysillan LOL along the Crumlin Road, the scene of a year-long standoff following a similar block last July.

Last summer saw some of the worst violence on the streets of Northern Ireland in recent years.

Police lines came under sustained attack on the Twelfth. Associated protests have cost more than £9m to police.

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