A Presbyterian minister has accused the Parades Commission of denying Orangemen their “religious liberties” after two bands taking part in a church parade this weekend were ordered to play a specific hymn while passing a Catholic church.
The Rev Mervyn Gibson said a decision to restrict the music played by two bands on the Newtownards Road this Sunday is “vindictive”.
In its ruling, the Parades Commission has ordered the bands to play Abide With Me when passing Saint Matthew’s Catholic Church, which faces onto the Newtownards Road.
An interface flashpoint, in the past loyalist bands have broken Parades Commission determinations banning loyalist music from being played in the vicinity of the church.
The Parades Commission decision is not the first time a band has been ordered to play a specific tune during a parade. On Easter Monday a loyalist band in Ardoyne was also instructed to play Abide With Me as it made its way past a nationalist district.
Rev Gibson, the Orange Order’s District Number 6 Chaplain, said the commission’s most recent decision interferes with the “religious liberties” of local Orangemen.
He said: “It breaches our religious liberties. They have banned the playing of Christian hymns in the UK and that is one of the points we will be raising with the Secretary of State. It’s tantamount to the Taliban religious police telling us what to do.”
Mr Gibson claimed the Parades Commission had a grudge against his district.
He said: “In my opinion there’s a vendetta against Number 6 District. The Parades Commission made this determination without talking to the unionist community. I believe it’s a vindictive decision.”
A commission spokesman said Abide With Me was chosen because it can’t be confused with other melodies. He said: “It is easily recognisable and people can’t confuse it with any other tune. It takes away any ambiguity.”
Sinn Féin election candidate Niall Ó Donnghaile said the Orange Order had little cause for complaint. He said: “I don’t understand why there would be an objection to playing a hymn on a church parade. Is that not what they were intending to play?”
Orangemen have claimed their religious liberties have been interfered with after two bands taking part in a church parade this weekend were told to play a specific hymn by the Parades Commission. The parade has been organised by the Loyal Orange Widows Fund and is expected to attract 200 people associated with Ballymacarrett District Number 6.