Published Sunday, 30 September 2012
Bandsmen pass Protesters at St Patrick''s Church on Donegal Street (© Pacemaker)
Tens of thousands of Orange members and supporters took part in the parade through Belfast - one of the biggest ever organised in Northern Ireland - to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1912 proclamation against plans for Home Rule in Ireland.
Around 2,000 Orangemen passed St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street without incident in the morning. The return feeder parade past the church also passed off peacefully in the evening.
The PSNI had mounted one of the biggest policing operations for years in the city - up to 50 Land Rovers were stationed along the flashpoint.
Marchers were ordered to play only sacred music from the Clifton Street to the Union Street junctions, while a protest held by the Carrick Hill residents' group was limited to 150 participants.
In a statement Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the day "passed off in relative peace and calm" and praised the efforts which made this possible.
"I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of those involved in the hard work behind the scenes over recent weeks, and right up to this evening, to make this possible," he said on Saturday night.
"This was a very large scale police operation with community safety at its core. Officers have worked tirelessly throughout the day with professionalism and dedication to protect the entire community."
These very real efforts, made by community representatives and Loyal Orders, supported by their political representatives, show a real willingness to achieve local resolutions. Hopefully this will create a more positive platform for dealing with sensitive parades in 2013.
ACC Will Kerr
However Sinn Féin has called on First Minister Peter Robinson to condemn bands who allegedly breached a number of Parades Commission determinations.
On Saturday Carrick Hill residents claimed they heard the Sash being played before bands reached Royal Avenue. They said some bandsmen acted in a provocative way.
It is understood the Sash was also heard being played near St Matthew's Catholic Church on the Newtownards Road where the Parades Commission had also placed the music restriction on bands.
East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile said the alleged breaches were "deeply unfortunate".
He called on the DUP leader to condemn "those who have deliberately tried to heighten sectarian tensions and undermine the vital cross community work that goes on in this area."
"The focus will no doubt now shift to the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service to ensure that they do what is required to bring those responsible for breaking the law before the courts and for the Parades Commission to indicate clearly that these continual breaches will not go unacknowledged in future," he said.
The Orange Order said some bands may have played exuberantly, adding the Parades Commission ruling was too stringent.
"There were over 200 bands in the parade," Orange Order Grand Secretary Drew Nelson said. "I understand there had been allegations and perhaps people did get a bit over exuberant. I hope that that didn't happen outside St Patrick's in Donegall Street.
"But the length during which the Parades Commission imposed those restrictions were much longer than just the front and the immediate area around the church."
"Behaviour that is disrespectful is unacceptable," he added.
Frank Dempsey, chair of the Carrick Hill Residents' Group, called for direct dialogue.
"The problem still remains; it still has to be resolved. We can't be standing out here 30 times a year doing this here. The Orange Order needs to say, okay let's sit down, let's resolve this issue because it's not insurmountable," he told UTV.
Police say evidence was gathered extensively throughout the day and any breaches of the Parades Commission ruling will be investigated and reported to the Public Prosecution Service.
The Parades Commission says it will take any breaches into account when reaching further decisions on contentious marches.
© UTV News