Belfast Telegraph

Parades: Tour of the North march 'can only play single drumbeat' as they pass Belfast Catholic church

By John Mulgrew

The Parades Commission has ruled bands passing by a flashpoint outside a Belfast church later this month will be restricted to a single drumbeat.

Bands taking part in the Tour of the North next Friday will not be able to play music as they pass by St Patrick's Church on the Donegall Road in north Belfast.

The decision was part of six parade determinations made by the new commission on Thursday.

There was also a decision made on a protest by the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group - which was permitted.

It comes just 24 hours after the Orange Order said bands marching by the Belfast church will only play hymns as they pass, during the parading season.

But next Friday, bands playing any music while passing the stretch would be in breach of the latest decision by the Parades Commission.

The Donegall Street flashpoint outside St Patrick's church was the scene of disorder and arrests in 2012.

Since then, local residents have staged protests as Orange Order bands pass by, during the busy parading season.

Bands that have passed by the church since trouble first broke out have normally been restricted to only playing religious songs on a section of the road, as part of a determination by the Parades Commission.

Parish priest Father Michael Sheehan said he welcomed the announcement.

In a statement on Wednesday, the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast also said it would "ensure no one on parade" would stop outside the church during the parades season.

"Building on the success of last year's initiative, steps will also be taken to ensure no one on parade will stop outside the chapel," it said.

"We hope this action will be welcomed by all concerned and accepted in the spirit made."

The Order said there remained an "open invitation" for further conversations with the church.

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.

Among Thursday's determinations by the Parades Commission for the upcoming Tour of North on Friday, June 20, the Ballysillan Loyal Orange Lodge was prohibited from walking past the Ardoyne shops during its return route.

A total of 50 people have been allowed to protest the march at two areas on Donegall Street and Trinity Street - organised by Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group.

Wednesday's statement from the Orange Order comes as talks are due to take this place this week between politicians, local lodges and clergy in an attempt to avoid trouble during a contentious march in north Belfast.

Following on from days of behind-the-scene talks, the Parades Commission ruled three lodges and two bands were not be allowed to pass the Ardoyne shops area last weekend.

They had applied to 'complete' the return leg of their Twelfth parade last year - after the commission ruled they could not walk along the stretch of the Crumlin Road that separates unionist and nationalist areas.

Since last summer, there been several applications for the bands to pass by the stretch - each time they have been refused.

The return leg of the parade has been blocked since the Twelfth last year.

Violence flared in the unionist Woodvale area last summer after bandsmen were stopped from marching past the adjacent nationalist Ardoyne on their way home from the annual commemorations.

As a result, serious rioting broke out on a number of days.

Further reading

Parade avoids significant trouble

Orange march probe after Sash is played by band near St Matthew's Catholic church

Orange Order parade passes peacefully on Donegall Street . . . but residents still fume 

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