Belfast Telegraph

Prince of Wales gives £2,000 to marching disputes church

The Prince of Wales has donated £2,000 to a Catholic Church at the centre of bitter marching disputes involving Protestant loyal orders in Northern Ireland.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall toured the historic Belfast place of worship in May in a gesture of reconciliation.

St Patrick's Church has witnessed disorder and discord in recent years, with some parading loyalist bandsmen accused of provocative and sectarian behaviour while passing by. The money is expected to be used for renovation work.

A total of 13 members of one loyalist band have been convicted of playing a sectarian tune while marching in a circle on Donegall Street outside St Patrick's in 2012.

The bandsmen, accompanying parading Orangemen, were found guilty of playing the Famine Song, which is played to the same tune as the Beach Boys' Sloop John B but with anti-Catholic lyrics.

The convictions were subsequently overturned on appeal, although the bandsmen were bound over to keep the peace.

It marked the first of a series of flashpoint incidents at the church. Weeks later, disorder broke out after another parading controversy.

In subsequent summers, restrictions have been placed on loyal order parades passing the church, with residents from nearby nationalist neighbourhoods staging protests against the loyal orders and loyalist bands.

Loyal orders claim their lawful right to parade has been restricted and have insisted they have offered concessions in regard to limiting band music to hymns.

St Patrick's priest Fr Michael Sheehan said the parish was fundraising to repair the church's disintegrating stonework.

He added: "Regrettably, its future is in jeopardy as its facade is worn and crumbling, and in need of major repair.

"The first phase of works is estimated to cost in the region of £1.5 million, with total works likely to exceed a colossal £5 million.

"The priests and people of St Patrick's have been encouraged in their fundraising efforts by incredibly generous benefactions. These have come from a variety of private donors and charitable bodies.

"Early this autumn, the parish received a gift of £2,000 from HRH The Prince of Wales, who earlier this year paid an historic visit to St. Patrick's."

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