Restrictions placed on Covenant march

Published Wednesday, 26 September 2012
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The Carrick Hill Residents Group are seeking legal advice after the Parades Commission allowed bands to play hymns as they pass St Patrick's Church in Belfast during the Ulster Covenant Centenary parade on Saturday.

Restrictions placed on Covenant march
Fr Sheehan stands at his church whilst bands pass last month (© Pacemaker)

On Wednesday, the Commission ruled that no loyalist supporters are allowed to accompany the parade past the church and only 150 nationalist protesters will be permitted in the area.

A maximum of 14 bands and around 1,500 marchers will pass the area on their way to Stormont as they mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

The Parade Commission said bands accompanying Orangemen will only be able to play hymns, if no church services are taking place.

There are to be no stoppages or delays and those taking part and supporting should behave respectfully in interface areas, while paramilitary-style clothing or banners are outlawed.

"This is a unique parading event coming at the start of the decade of commemorations. It occurs in a context which has significantly shifted since events of this summer", the Parades Commission said.

"The Commission has come to the conclusion that, should the protest proceed without restriction, there will be an adverse effect on already fragile community relations and potential for public disorder."

A separate parade past St Matthew's Catholic Church on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast has also been ordered to abide by restrictions on the music it plays.

There must be no loud drumming; participants must refrain from conduct, words, music or behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as intentionally sectarian, provocative, threatening, abusive, insulting or lewd; and marching must be dignified.

Parades Commission

In a statement, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland acknowledged the determination.

"The Institution will do everything possible to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant with respect and dignity," they said.

But Residents of Carrick Hill say they are disappointed by the determination.

Frank Dempsey, Chair of Carrick Hill Residents' Group, said they have been left "bewildered" by the ruling.

"How can anyone in their right sense come to the conclusion to give this determination that it's ok to play hymns?" he asked.

"I think it's pressure from the Orange Order; I think it's again the same thing, we see unionism coming together.

"We've no objections to the marchers coming down Clifton Street. All we are asking for is respect for our community and respect for our church," added Mr Dempsey.

Concerns were raised after members of a loyalist band were filmed marching in circles and playing a tune alleged to be sectarian outside the Catholic church on the Twelfth of July.

In August loyalist bands defied a ruling by the Parades Commission that only a single drumbeat should be played when passing the church during a Royal Black Institution parade.

The Commission said it was disappointed that there was no direct contact between the parade organisers and local residents in the lead-up to Saturday's event.

Meanwhile, Father Michael Sheehan reacted to comments by the Orange Order that on two occasions Frank Dempsey, in his capacity as chairman of the residents group, had been invited to join in their conversations about Ulster Covenant Day, which he declined.

He said he was "sorely disappointed" that confidential conversations between the clergy and parishioners with the Orange Order were publicly divulged.

"It was my hope and understanding that these conversations would ultimately lead to discussions with the residents. It is indeed unfortunate and regrettable that this did not happen," he added.

In advance of the parade I would appeal for calm and respect over the coming days.

Father Michael Sheehan of St Patrick's Church

Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the ruling was "rewarding the Orange Order because they broke the determination the last time en masse".

"The residents are very determined that they will adhere to the Parades Commission despite the fact that they are disappointed in it and I hope we will have a quiet day," he said.

SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said: "There is a bigger issue here and that is the lack of direct engagement between Loyal Orders and residents - something that residents have repeatedly asked for and are continually open to."

On Tuesday First Minister Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt appealed for the whole community to demonstrate respect for one another.

They called for only those who are involved in the Parade passing St Patrick's Church to be there on Saturday, adding it was "regrettable" that any determination on the Ulster Covenant parade should be made.

Tens of thousands of Orangemen and their supporters are expected in the city for the march.

The centre piece of the Covenant commemorations will see a cultural festival staged in the grounds at Stormont. On Wednesday the Orange Order joined MLAs in a wreath laying ceremony at Carson's statue.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
70 Comments
Angry Road Tax Payer in Real World wrote (729 days ago):
@sharon... queens highway???... yes maybe when she starts paying road tax like the rest of us she'll have the same entitlement as we all do to use the roads, except of course when some morons want to march on them!!!!!!!
sharon in belfast wrote (732 days ago):
Every year the Catholics of this country has something to complain about Easter Monday Easter Tuesday July August and now the Covenant if they dont want to be offended then stay in your house every road in northern ireland is the Queens highway for every one wise up.
WTF in Back home in Ards wrote (732 days ago):
@Seamas. Not sure what question you want me to answer. If you're referring to Steve's statement about the 'houses' beside St.Pats you may find that only 1 is 'lived in', and that is a temporary home for people with special requirements before they get a permanent place of residence. The others are offices. PS I wouldn't class any of these buildings as Carrick Hill which is what the original discussion was about. Maybe I should've been more specific in my original post. Hope that clears the matter up for you.
seamas in belfast wrote (732 days ago):
WTF. I notice you didn't answer the question.
Matt in Newry Ireland wrote (732 days ago):
"The future is bright but not orange".! Thomas mccreery - do not be ridiculous, both nationalists and unionists all over Ireland ran at German machineguns, a pointless waste of life, they were fighting for ideals not a "country", unlike the volunteers in 1916 who hoped to rid Ireland once and for all of British rule.
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BRIAN ROWAN
Two comments, spoken tongue-in-cheek, nonetheless summed up the mood and the mire that is Stormont politics.
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