A controversial apprentice Boys parade past st Patrick's church in Belfast passed off peacefully yesterday. There was a large security operation in place for the both the out-ward and return parades past the Donegall street church. A PSNI helicopter circled overhead as a loyalist band, shankill star, and around 20 apprentice Boys made their way past the church around 11.20am while local residents held a small protest on a footpath opposite. It was a similar situation on the return journey at around 2.30. The band had been ordered to play only hymns while passing the church and to play no music if Mass was taking place between 11am and 11.30am.
However, the band played only a single drumbeat during both the out-ward and return journey. It emerged yesterday that while the Parades commission determination listed Mass to take place at 11am in fact it started at 10am. A spokeswoman for the Parades commission last night refused to
confirm if the commission made the apprentice Boys aware of the Mass time error in advance of the parade.
"As soon as the commission was made aware of the correction to Mass time it advised as many interested parties as possible," she said.
Frank Dempsey from the carrick Hill concerned residents' Group welcomed the gesture of the single drum beat but said it should become a permanent arrangement.
"If they were going to do that why didn't they make it public through the press or the Parades commission and it could have been relayed to the people of carrick Hill," he said.
"nobody wants this resolved more than we do. We don't want to be standing out here but they can't just pick and choose when they are in a good mood."
Yesterday's parade was the first since secret talks between the apprentice Boys and carrick Hill residents ended last year without agreement. Tensions in the area have been high since shanklill based Young conway volunteers was filmed walking in circles in front of st Patrick's while playing the sectarian Famine Song on the twelfth of July 2012. North Belfast SDLP councillor nichola Mallon said progress has been made.
"I think this morning shows what can be done," she said.
"the parade adhered to the determination ad acted with respect and the residents showed respect back and that's the basis to get around the trouble and come to a local agreement.
"there has clearly been thousands of tax payers money spent here policing a situation that doesn't need to exist." Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee said: "thankfully everything passed off peacefully. Today's parade is an example of common sense prevailing.
"The way to resolve the few contentious parades is for there to be direct talks between the residents concerned and the parade organisers." no-one from the apprentice Boys was available for comment.
* OPERATION: Police outside St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street in Belfast city centre yesterday
* PROTEST: Nationalist residents protest in Donegall Street yesterday as a loyalist band accompanies Apprentice Boys