Parade avoids significant trouble
Published 21/06/2013 | 22:32
Significant trouble has been averted at the first contentious parade of Northern Ireland's marching season.
Minor skirmishes broke out after a group of youths tried to break through lines of marchers in the Peters Hill area of north Belfast but were swiftly brought under control by the PSNI.
There was a heavy police presence as the Orange Order's annual Tour of the North passed a flashpoint at St Patrick's Catholic church on Donegall Street without incident.
Some bands breached a Parades Commission determination by playing hymns instead of a single drum beat at Donegall Street.
In a statement issued after the parade the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast said: "Orangemen, women and bands paraded with dignity and showed respect at St Patrick's Roman Catholic chapel. This evening's parade proved that the comprehensive template, issued earlier this month, was a genuine effort aimed at resolving the issue concerning St Patrick's. We are glad the annual event passed off peacefully; we thank our supporters and look forward to celebrating our culture and heritage in a traditional manner."
Last week the Orange Order unveiled a series of measures it claimed could help keep peace on the streets.
The protocol for parades along Donegall Street included self imposed restrictions on the type of music played while passing St Patrick's church but fell short of engaging with nationalist residents' groups opposed to loyalist marches.
Earlier, the First and Deputy First Ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, appealed for calm throughout the potentially troublesome summer months. PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott also said there was no reason the parading season could not pass off peacefully.
More than 1,000 people took part in the Tour of the North. Police said two people were arrested for offences during the parade. A 20-year-old man was detained for disorderly behaviour and a 16-year-old boy was arrested for provocative conduct.
PSNI Chief Superintendent George Clarke, district commander for north and west Belfast, said: "Tonight's parade was largely peaceful. However, there were a number of incidents, which are being investigated by police. These include suspected breaches of the Parades Commission determination and an attempt by a number of youths to disrupt the procession as it passed Peters Hill."