Bands ordered to play hymns passing church

Connla Young

THE Orange Order has instructed its members to "play hymns only" as they march past a Catholic church that has become a flashpoint in north Belfast.

St Patrick's church in Donegall Street has been the site of previous disorder.

Tensions began on 12 July 2012 when a loyalist band marched in a circle outside the church playing a song perceived to be anti-Catholic.

The latest blueprint emerged as the Parades Commission met to consider the controversial Tour of the North parade around north Belfast later this month.

In a statement issued yesterday the Orange Order said that only hymn music would be played by bands taking part in six remaining parades past the church this year.

The order has also said "steps will also be taken to ensure no-one on parade will stop outside" St Patrick's.

A "template" issued by the order in June last year limited bands to hymns in some circumstances.

In the past bands taking part in loyal order parades in the area have defied Parades Commission bans on playing music in the area.

The Parades Commission met yesterday to consider the controversial Tour of the North march on June 20.

Up to 15 bands and 1,000 people are expected to take part in the parade which will end close to the Crumlin Road.

Two residents groups, from Carrick Hill and New Lodge and North Queen Street both plan to hold protests numbering up to 150 people at each as the parade passes St Patrick's church and Clifton Street.

Carrick Hill residents' spokesman Sean Maskey was part of a delegation that met the Parades Commission this week.

"We pointed out how volatile the situation is and emphasised we want to talk to the loyal orders," he said.

"For four minutes we are asking them not to play music, from the Westlink to Union Street.

"We are prepared to sit down and talk about these issues.

"We want to sit down with the Orange Order themselves and nobody else.

"The Orange Order should talk to the parish priest and Carrick Hill Concerned Residents' Group."

Orange Order chaplain the Rev Mervyn Gibson said the latest initiative was "a genuine attempt to deal with the issues".

He also said that he said that if representatives of resident groups attended meetings with the St Patrick's "congregation" it "would not cause us a problem".

"We can't dictate who comes along with the delegation we will meet anybody who represents the community," he said.

The senior Orangeman said the organisation had opted to play hymns while passing St Patrick's because a single drumbeat "sounds sinister".

"The question is, what hymns do people find objectionable?" he asked.

"We want to try and resolve these issues. They give us no pleasure and we want to try and resolve it to everybody's satisfaction and this has been planned for some time.

"We said we would build on last year."

? Editorial ? P18


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