Orange Order to assist Belfast council probe band parade in City Hall
The Orange Order has pledged to "fully cooperate" with an investigation by Belfast City Council after footage emerged of a loyalist flute band parade inside City Hall.
Govan Protestant Boys were at City Hall to attend a centenary dinner for the George Telford Memorial Orange Lodge, listed in council minutes as a celebration of "100 years of the club based at Clifton Street Orange Hall".
Footage later emerged on social media of members of the Glasgow flute band parading and chanting through the corridors and reception hall of the building.
Nationalist councillors have demanded answers from Belfast City Council's chief executive as to why the band was allowed to parade through a "shared space".
In a statement issued by the Orange Order on behalf of the George Telford Memorial LOL 118, it said the private function at Belfast City Hall on Saturday night was "organised as part of our centenary celebrations".
"We are aware of videos circulating on social media of Govan Protestant Boys playing within the public area of City Hall," the statement said.
"As a lodge, we will fully cooperate with the investigation of Belfast City Council.
"We will make no further public comment at this stage."
A spokesman for Govan Protestant Boys told the Belfast Telegraph that they did not wish to comment.
There were just under 200 people, including the band, at the event on Saturday night which comprised a dinner followed by speeches.
An event attendee, who asked not to be named, said: "The band came out of the Great Hall and went down the stairs in the east wing and came back up again and walked along the corridor in front of the Mayor's portrait. It lasted five minutes."
The Alliance Party's Michael Long said stricter checks and measures must be applied to applications to use Belfast City Hall in light of the actions of the loyalist flute band, which he said "will make it more difficult for others to get permission to use City Hall".
"We're going to have to tighten up procedures from here on in," he said.
"We're going to have to spend more time looking at applications and considering the details more carefully.
"This cannot be allowed to happen in future. It's going to make it more difficult for others to get permission to use City Hall.
"They have just ruined it for other people."
Applications for use of City Hall are made to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee and this newspaper understands that there is rarely a forensic examination of requests.
A well-placed source said: "In most cases the application is just nodded through. The odd time somebody would raise a concern about the application but in general it just sails through."
Doubts have, however, been cast over whether the Govan Protestant Boys broke any rules by behaving as they did inside the building.
Our source said: "There's nothing to say that you can't go into various parts of the City Hall and there's nothing to say that you can't play music.
"As far as the rules are concerned, they didn't do anything wrong."
It is understood that the application for the centenary dinner in the Great Hall was made by George Telford Memorial Orange Lodge, whose Worshipful Grand Master is the DUP's David Graham.
Yesterday a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Mr Long said it was important "to speak to those who were responsible for the event" in order to "find out what happened".
"Staff are treating this as a serious incident," he said. "It's unacceptable that council property was used in this way and it's completely unacceptable conduct in the shared space that is City Hall."
Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie said the behaviour of the loyalist flute band "parading around the corridors and reception of Belfast City Hall" on Saturday was "disgraceful".
"This sends out the wrong message of the changing Belfast and City Hall which is supposed to be a shared space and open to all," he said.
"I have contacted the Chief Executive to raise serious concerns and demand answers as to how and why this was allowed to happen."
Meanwhile, loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said he was happy to see the band "proudly marching through City Hall expressing our culture".
However SDLP councillor Carl Whyte said he was "staggered" at "bandsmen marching through the corridors, beating drums with crowds of supporters shouting in their wake".
He added: "It appears disrespectful of our shared civic space and I've asked the Chief Executive of the council to investigate what happened."
Despite several attempts to contact David Graham from the DUP, this newspaper was unable to reach him at the time of going to print.