Published Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson at the Parades Commission (© Pacemaker)
Earlier First Minister Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt appealed for the whole community to demonstrate respect for one another following a joint meeting with the watchdog.
Tens of thousands of Orangemen and their supporters are expected in the city on Saturday for a special march to Stormont to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt called for only those who are involved in the Parade passing St Patrick's Church to be there on Saturday.
"As only a small section of the main parade is due to pass St Patrick's Church, we would encourage the many thousands who will want to watch the main parade to do so at vantage points at the City Hall and along the main parade route," they said.
It comes after the Orange Order said it will only play hymns when passing the church on Donegall Street, where disorder broke out last month.
On 12 July members of a loyalist band were filmed marching in circles and playing a tune alleged to be sectarian outside the church.
Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt said they welcomed the significant steps taken by the Orange institution ahead of Saturday's parade, adding it was "regrettable" that any determination on the Ulster Covenant parade should be made.
They said "no sensible person could object to the playing of hymn music on Saturday".
Only those who are involved in the parade passing St Patrick's Church need be in that particular vicinity.
Peter Robinson & Mike Nesbitt
The two unionist leaders stressed that the weekend's events have a "very special and cherished significance for unionists across the Province and beyond".
"Whilst we fully recognise that not everyone in Northern Ireland will embrace the celebrations, we would appeal to the whole community to demonstrate respect for one another and for the differences in culture and identity," they said.
Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt appealed to those involved in the celebrations to act in a way that brings "dignity and honour" to Northern Ireland.
They also called for those who are intending to protest against the parade to behave in a "dignified, lawful and responsible manner".
"Just as the Orange Order is responsible for the conduct of the parade, so too are the Carrick Hill protest organisers responsible for the conduct of all those on protest. Given that there are only a few hundred who live in the area, we would not expect to see more protestors on Saturday than there are residents in Carrick Hill," the statement read.
They said the Orange Order "fulfilled their commitment" to engage with Fr Michael Sheehan from St Patrick's Church.
They said the Chair of the Carrick Hill Residents' Group had refused to join talks alongside the clergy and parishioners to engage with the Orange Order on two occasions.
Sinn Féin has called for the Loyal Orders to be involved in direct dialogue with the north Belfast residents group.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who also met with the Parades Commission on Tuesday, said: "It is hugely disappointing that the Orange Order who are organising the parade continue to choose to disrespect the residents of Carrickhill by refusing to enter into dialogue with them. Going forward this is a completely untenable situation and one which needs to change.
"Now is the time for political leaders to step forward and show leadership to ensure Saturday goes off peacefully. Now is not the time of intemperate or inflammatory language."
© UTV News