Belfast Telegraph

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

By Chris Kilpatrick

The Orange Order has accused the parading watchdog of squandering an opportunity to alleviate sectarian tensions ahead of the first major parade of the marching season.

The Parades Commission has ruled just a single drumbeat can be played as marchers pass St Patrick's Church at Donegall Street, Belfast, as part of the Tour of the North next week.

The decision was made public 24 hours after the Orange Order announced only hymns would be played.

Nationalist representatives welcomed the determination, and said it was vital the commission's rulings be adhered to.

But the Order and the DUP both hit out at the body, accusing it of "adopting the failed approach of their predecessors in a wholesale fashion".

"We have long argued hymns are much preferable for all concerned to silence or the playing of a single drumbeat, which creates a sense of tension," DUP MLA William Humphrey said.

"It is hugely disappointing that this new commission has squandered an opportunity to build on a positive initiative which had been welcomed and appreciated."

Supporters have been told they must not accompany marchers past the church, and those taking part must not stop outside the place of worship. The parading watchdog also barred a march by Ballysillan LOL along the Crumlin Road, the scene of a year-long standoff following a similar block last July.

An Orange Order spokesman said the determinations were hugely disappointing.

He said the determination was "in stark contrast to the positive response to the goodwill gesture regarding the playing of hymns, which was publicly welcomed by St Patrick's administrator, Fr Michael Sheehan."

He added: "This new Parades Commission is quickly losing its shine and is mimicking its predecessor, rather than bringing a fresh perspective.

"It continues to be part of the problem and is not the solution."

In all, six determinations were published by the commission yesterday in relation to next Friday evening's parade.

They also included restrictions on a protest by the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group.

A total of 50 people have been allowed to protest the march at two areas on Donegall Street and Trinity Street.

Residents in the area have previously called on police to act on what they say are "constant" breaches of the Parades Commission's determinations – claiming bands had played music other than hymns.

SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness welcomed the determination regarding the single drumbeat.

"It is appropriate that when passing places of worship that a solemn and respectful attitude is taken," he said. "It is therefore fitting that a single drumbeat should be played."

Story so far

Last year's Tour of the North resulted in controversy after North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly was embroiled in an altercation with police.

The Policing Board member received a caution after he was carried on the front of a PSNI Land Rover as officers left the Carrick Hill area.

The driver of the vehicle also received an informed warning for his part in the incident.

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