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Priest hits out after residents snubbed by Orange Order

A north Belfast priest has criticised the Orange Order for excluding residents from talks aimed at finding a resolution to a contentious loyalist march past a Catholic church.

Fr Michael Sheehan, who has been engaged in efforts with the Orange Order to try and prevent an eruption of violence at next Saturday’s Ulster Covenant Parade in the Carlisle Circus area, said yesterday he was “disappointed and bewildered” that the Order would not speak directly to the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Committee.

On Monday the Orange Order said that following talks with community leaders, clergy and parishioners, a decision was taken that bands would only play hymns when passing St Patrick’s Church.

However, it did not speak directly to the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents.

“I am very disappointed that the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents, who reached out with no objection to parades in principle or specific requirements for re-routing, will not be engaged with in any way,” said Fr Sheehan.

He added that while the Order’s suggestion to play hymns was “an improvement” on last month — when loyalist bands defied the Parades Commission and played music outside the Donegall Street church — it was “no substitute for real and meaningful dialogue”.

Carrick Hill Concerned Residents, who yesterday met with the Parades Commission, rejected the Orange Order suggestion to play hymns as an “empty gesture” that does not address the issues.

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“The question must now be asked, does the Orange Order genuinely want a resolution to the parading issue?” the group said.

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