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Orange Order defy Parades Commission

The Orange Order have defied a Parades Commission restriction on hymns during a parade in east Belfast.

The Order were told by the commission that they were to only play Abide With Me while marching from Susan Street to Townsend Street near St Matthew’s Chapel.

However, during the parade, involving Ballymacarrett LOL No 6, What A Friend We Have In Jesus and The World In Union were played.

The World in Union is based upon a 1921 British Patriotic hymn called I Vow To Thee, My Country, a song that is associated with Remembrance Day services.

Rev Mervyn Gibson, of the No 6. District LOL, said: “We didn’t think too deeply about what hymns were being played.

“There were two bands playing and they were playing songs from their own reportoire. I heard Will You Anchor Hold being played, for example.

“We didn’t fall into the Parades Comission trap of sitting down and planning what songs should be played.

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“We all think the march passed off without incident and we marched in a dignified manner.”

Rev Gibson said last week that the Parades Commission were acting like a “Taliban Religious Authority” by dictating that only one hymn could be played.

He also confirmed that the Orange Order would be seeking a meeting with Justice Minster David Ford and Secretary of State Owen Patterson.

He said that the request was “still pending” but leaders are “hopeful” of getting both meetings set up in the near future.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said that the main aim of its determination had been achieved.

“The main aim was to ensure that respectful, non-party songs were played at interface areas, and although the parade may have gone against the letter of the determination, it appears that aim has been achieved, so we would be broadly pleased,” a spokesperson said.

Responding, Rev Gibson said: “I didn’t know the Parades Commission were happy with the parade.

“They’re playing silly games, and the tension had been hyped up thanks to them.

“Hopefully there is no long term damage to community relations.”

The Parades Commission explained their position on issuing the determination.

The organisation said previous parades in the area, including some organised by the Ballymacarrett LOL No 6, had defied restrictions to play hymn tunes only when passing interface areas and places of worship.

“Having considered all the evidence, information and advice available to it, the commission takes the view that it is necessary to place conditions on the parade in order to emphasise the importance of behaviour in this sensitive area,” the ruling read.

A PSNI spokesperson confirmed the march ended with no significant incidents.

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