PSNI praise Covenant march 'efforts'

Published Sunday, 30 September 2012
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Police have praised the hard work carried out behind the scenes which ensured the peaceful passing of Saturday's Ulster Covenant parade in north Belfast.

PSNI praise Covenant march 'efforts'
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
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2 Comments
lorna in limavady wrote (750 days ago):
Just shows that 99.9% of the Protestant CAN march peacful. But can the one per cent not be persuaded by show from catholic/nationalists that they mean them no hard. When we get hissing from the Republicans blocking roads, riots than those Protestant will act accordingly.After 30 years of violence the two sides can live in peace. Because Protestants want to celebrate the Covenant day does not mean they want to put down the Catholic church, it only means we admire those who took the stand many years ago and gave us freedom. BUT the freedom to march seems to have been taken away.
James in Belfast wrote (750 days ago):
Just curious if anyone who took part in this parade was at all concerned about the message sent? The sight of thousands of men on public streets in military style uniform will undoubtedly underline the failure of the peace process to make peace. It is clear nothing has been reconciled and it doesn't bode well for the coming decade. Cuts will cause scarcity, scarcity will cause tension, and tension will escape through the commonly traveled route of sectarianism. I think it's a shame because we should be standing up for one another against cuts and poverty, not fighting one another. I think this has seriously undermined Sinn Fein and the DUP in particular and politics in general as a vehicle to deliver equality. It is the latest in a long line of statements made to underline the primacy of one section of people in Northern Irish politics. We know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, someone needs to step back and decide what we want to be celebrating ten years from now? When you don't respect the law you can't expect others to respect it either, foolish! I respect the right of everyone to follow their culture and would see it as important to communities. However I would ask marchers how they would feel if thousands of Republicans in military style uniforms marched through their areas. Would they see that demonstration as peaceful celebration or show of strength? If it is a show of strength then what was the purpose of it?
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