Covenant bands 'to only play hymns'

Published Monday, 17 September 2012
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The Orange Order has said bands marching past St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street during its centenary Ulster Covenant parades will only play hymns.

Covenant bands 'to only play hymns'
The Orange Order will parade to mark the signing of the Ulster Covenant. (© Pacemaker)

In a statement, the order says they have had "quiet, frank and constructive conversations" between clergy and parishioners to defuse tensions following the trouble at recent parades.

A loyalist band caused controversy when a recording was released which showed the Young Conway Volunteers flute band circling outside the Catholic church in Belfast's city centre during the Twelfth of July parades.

They were accused of playing sectarian tune "The Famine Song" but the band insisted they were instead playing a Beach Boys song of the same tune.

Trouble broke out at a Royal Black Institution parade at the end of August as protestors clashed outside the church after bands defied Parades Commission rulings that they should only play a single drumbeat when passing and the YCV band should not pass the church.

The Royal Black Institution has since apologised to the clergy at St Patrick's Church and Fr Michael Sheehan from the church said he appreciated the "Christian spirit" behind the move.

Further disorder broke out a week later at a republican parade in north Belfast when a crowd of loyalist protestors gathered and violent scenes erupted.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said there had been an "unhealthy focus" on the contentious parade site where "no previous contention existed".

In a statement, the Orange Order said: "In a respectful and sincere effort to address what we heard and following further conversations with local districts, bands, community representatives, political leaders and locally elected representatives, the Ulster Covenant centenary parade on 29 September when passing St Patrick's, which will be open; will play hymns.

"The return parade in the early evening will show similar respect."

It continued:"The Orange Institution is committed to civil and religious liberty for all and developing a programme of mutual understanding that begins to rebuild Christian neighbourliness and a return to normality."

All we seek is acceptance and respect for our traditions; we will not deny others what we ourselves desire.

Orange Order

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt welcomed the decision of the Orange Order and associated bands.

"This is the latest gesture of goodwill from the loyal orders and bands, and once again, it creates the space for everyone to hope for better in the future," the Strangford MLA said.

"I attended last night's meeting in north Belfast where the decision was taken, and having listened carefully to the debate, am convinced that the gesture is intended in the spirit of generosity I think is essential to transform the current mood."

DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said the statement is "very welcome."

"It is a positive and constructive decision which should enable an enjoyable and peaceful day to be had by everyone," he said.

"The focus should return to the purpose of the 29th September Parade which is the celebration of an enormously significant event in the history of Ulster."

The north Belfast MP also welcomed the "quiet but constructive conversations" between the Royal Black Institution and others with representatives of St Patrick's parish.

However, Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said time is running out for the Orange Order to have direct face-to-face talks with the Carrickhill residents.

He said: "Despite what the Grand Orange Lodge try to imply in their statement earlier today, they still have not had face-to-face discussions with the Carrickhill residents.

"Conversations to resolve these issues must involve those who file for the parade, the Grand Lodge and those who file for the related protest, the Carrickhill Residents Association.

"That has not happened and the Orange Order need to explain why they have not taken this step."

The north Belfast MLA said that time is "running out for a resolution."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
44 Comments
Einstein in Belfast wrote (665 days ago):
Michael H in Belfast wrote (5 days ago): "The Covenant was a pivotal moment in Unionist history. For Nationalists/Republicans to attack that shows that we can never have peace here." Nigel Dodds said the Ulster Covenant was vital for "Religious Liberty" - yes, for Protestants. For northern Catholics it was about perrpetual civil & religious subjugation. "Everyone seems to forget that there has never been a problem with this parade before. Even during the worst days of the troubles. This is only a problem now since the cease fires and the rise of the Sinn Fein/IRA backed residents groups". The key word here is "Resident" (the people who actually live there). Prior to now Michael, this was "a Protestant Parliment for a Protestant People" - & by extension - a Protestant country aswell. Northern Catholics & Croppies were merely expected to lye down. They no longer lye down.
David in Glasgow wrote (668 days ago):
I'm from out of town, so don't shoot me down. However, to avoid a new flashpoint can't the musical band not just choose another route avoiding the church which was previously shown a lack of respect? That's how they would handle it other parts of the UK.
lorna in limavady wrote (669 days ago):
Yes Seamus they could possibly go a differant way but that will not solve the problem. The problem being 100 Years from the signing of the covanent we still see this bitterness. yes. displayed on both sides against each other. Children must have been brought with ignorance intolerance and hatred. now .is this the fault of the church or is it lack of Christian guidence. For the Protestant people the church I know does not encourage this but many are outside church guidence.Until we get a show of mutual respect for those who value this historical event we cannot ever know true peace. we are just going around in circles.
Michael H in Belfast wrote (670 days ago):
Everyone seems to forget that there has never been a problem with this parade before. Even during the worst days of the troubles. This is only a problem now since the cease fires and the rise of the Sinn Fein/IRA backed residents groups. I have now attempted 5 times to get my voice heard on this site and have failed everytime Hopefully this one makes it. The Covenant was a pivotal moment in Unionist history. For Nationalists/Republicans to attack that shows that we can never have peace here.
seamas in belfast wrote (670 days ago):
Lorna. Why don't the OO just march along a different street and avoid St Patrick's altogether? Would that not resolve the situation?
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