Bands ordered not to play music outside St Patrick's
LOYALIST bands taking part in a controversial Orange Order parade later this month in Belfast have been ordered not to play music while passing St Patrick's Church.
Up to 15 bands and 1,000 Orangemen are expected to take part in the Tour of the North parade around north Belfast on June 20.
The Parades Commission ruling came just hours after the Orange Order announced that bands taking part in six parades later this year will play only hymns while passing the Donegall Street church.
The area has been the scene of previous disorder between loyal order supporters and nationalists opposed to the parade past St Patrick's and nearby Carrick Hill.
In the past, bands taking part in loyal order parades through the area have regularly breached Parades Commission rulings on playing music.
The march has also been banned from passing through the nationalist Cliftonville Road, Antrim Road and Dun-cairn Gardens district of north Belfast.
Bands taking part in feeder parades past St Patrick's have also been ordered to play only a single drumbeat while passing the church.
Controversy erupted during last year's Tour of the North after Sinn Fein Policing Board member Gerry Kelly was carried along a street while clinging to the bonnet of a PSNI Land Rover.
Carrick Hill residents' spokesman Sean Maskey said local people had hoped for restrictions to be placed on the parade route past the nationalist district.
"We welcome the fact they will only play a single drum-beat past the church," he said.
"But we are bitterly disappointed they are allowed to play any music going past Carrick Hill and it is unacceptable to residents."
Orange Order chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the ruling.
"This new commission is wearing the same clothes as the old commission," he said.
"It would appear that hymns
offend them and they continue to make Donegall Street a no-go area for sections of the community even though it is a main, commercial and arterial route in Belfast.
"The initiative was welcomed by Fr Sheehan yet the Parades Commission has chosen to try and demonise the institution."
North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness welcomed the latest decision but voiced concerns about the Orange Order plan.
"I have said in the past that sacred music and hymns have been misused and abused from time to time and in particular outside St Patrick's," he said.
North Belfast DUP assemblyman William Humphrey criticised the Parades Commission.
"It had been hoped that this new Parades Commission would recognise positive gestures which show respect and which are designed to reach an agreed accommodation," he said.