Commission to probe Covenant parade rules breach claims
The Parades Commission has warned it will take any breach of determinations by bands during Saturday’s march into account for future decisions.
Despite the huge parade marking the centenary of the Ulster Covenant passing off peacefully, claims have been made that some bands broke the rulings.
Around 2,000 Orangemen filed past St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street as part of a feeder parade from north Belfast.
The area around the church was subject to strict Parades Commission rulings after a loyalist band played a sectarian tune outside it during this year’s Twelfth celebrations.
The Commission had ordered bands to play only hymns from the Carrick Hill junction as far as Royal Avenue.
Up to 50 Land Rovers were stationed along the
flashpoint as the 20-minute march past the church passed off without incident.
Carrick Hill residents, however, claimed they heard The Sash being played before bands reached Royal Avenue.
It is understood The Sash was also heard being played near St Matthew's Church on the Newtownards Road.
Sinn Fein has now called on First Minister Peter Robinson to condemn bands who played tunes other
than hymns while passing the Catholic church.
Frank Dempsey (left), chair of the Carrick Hill Residents' Group, said the determination had been “smashed”.
“Some of the bands did stick by it, but a number of them bands broke that,” he said.
Father Michael Sheehan, parish priest at St Patrick's, said he did not hear The Sash being played.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Niall O Donnghaile said the determination outside St Matthew’s had been breached: “Outside St Matthew's Church — I think it's fair to say most of the bands taking part — openly defied the Commission's determination.
“The PSNI must present the case to the Public Prosecution Service, who must pursue those who broke the law,” he added.
“The focus will no doubt now shift to the Parades Commission to indicate clearly that these continual breaches will not go unacknowledged in future.”
A Commission spokesman said: “Any breach of a determination is a matter for police investigation and those involved could be liable to prosecution. The Commission will take previous behaviour and any breaches into account in reaching future decisions.”
Police said any breaches would be passed to the PPS.
A PSNI spokesman said: “Police have an extensive evidence-gathering operation in place and any breaches of the Parades Commission determination will be investigated and reported accordingly.”