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Tour of the North: Orange Order outraged at 'ludicrous' marching restrictions for north Belfast parade

By Claire Cromie

Published 12/06/2015

Fr Michael Sheehan watches a loyalist band parade past St Patrick's Church on Donegal Street, Belfast. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Fr Michael Sheehan watches a loyalist band parade past St Patrick's Church on Donegal Street, Belfast. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Minor scuffles break out at Donegall Street

The Orange Order has reacted with outrage to restrictions imposed on its contentious Tour of the North parade.

The Parades Commission has introduced a more stringent rule on the playing of music this year - saying all music must stop 43 metres away from the church so there is no music within "earshot" of it.

Last year the Order was told it could only march past St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street to a single drum beat.

But it says this tensions have been exacerbated by bands playing music "provocatively" within earshot of the church, in particular the Famine Song.

Reacting to the latest determination, the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast said it was appalled by "an increasingly aloof and discredited Parades Commission".

A statement said: "The commission is now simply a mouthpiece for republican propaganda, allowing them to dictate the terms of when, how and where Loyal Order parades are held. This is confirmed in the determination, which clearly states, if the commission impose these restrictions the protests might stop. Of course they would - why would you need to protest when your puppets in the commission do your bidding?

"The commission fails to recognise the engagement held with the local Parish Priest; the commission has consistently thrown back in our face offers to play hymn music only, even though the local priest is on record as saying he would welcome the playing of hymns past St Patrick’s Church.

"The invented new criteria of banning music within 'earshot' of a place of worship not is use, is as mischievous as it is absurd, and clearly put in place to further censor Protestant heritage on the supposed shared streets of Northern Ireland’s capital city."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, of the DUP, said: "The latest determination by the Parades Commission on Donegall Street demonstrates that this is a bureaucratic monstrosity that has lost the run of itself, simply dances to the tune of republican residents, or a dangerous combination of both.

"It is clear from the document that the Parades Commission gave serious consideration to banning music being played outside Clifton Street Orange hall. I wish that statement was a joke but it is not."

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness welcomed the determination.

"This determination by the Parades Commission is sensible and I would hope that it sets the tone for this year's marching season," he said.

"At every stage of this dispute all that the parishioners of St Patrick's and the residents of Carrick Hill have asked for is to be treated with respect."

Further reading

PSNI prepare for summer challenges

Parade allowed to march along Garvaghy Road for first time in two decades

Orange Order fury as bands told just a drumbeat on passing St Patrick's Church at Donegall Street

Marchers and police clash at Tour of North parade in Belfast  

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