Northern Ireland

Parades Commission to review with PSNI Orange parade near Slemish on St Patrick's Day

Slemish  Mountain
Slemish Mountain Slemish Mountain

The Parades Commission will review with the PSNI an Orange parade through the village of Broughshane as St Patrick's Day pilgrims were making their way to Slemish Mountain.

Eyewitnesses described buses and cars being blocked along with traffic backing up on the road to Ballymena as the Orangemen took to the streets of the village for several hours last Friday.

In a statement, the Parades Commission confirmed it will be reviewing the circumstances surrounding the parade, which was allowed by the commission.

“Although traffic management issues are not within the commission’s remit, it has been reported that there was traffic disruption in and around Broughshane on St. Patrick’s Day," a commission spokesperson said.

"The commission will review the matter with the PSNI and other interested parties.” It is understood the PSNI has not yet received any correspondence from the commission.

Last year in the village of Broughshane, there was a mini-festival with outdoor entertainment, including traditional music, dance and street theatre.

Braid LOL this year applied to have a parade, the first time one has ever taken place on St Patrick’s Day. A small, short parade was held on March 12 last year, the first time one was held in March.

Eleven bands, an estimated 2,000 members and a crowd of 5,000 were listed in documents filed with the Parades Commission as expecting to take part. Braid LOL did not respond to a request for comment.

The parade began at noon around the peak time for visits to the mountain. The Parades Commission was told the initial two hour march would start at noon and take two hours. A return march was listed to start at 3pm and end at 6pm.

There is no permitted parking within two miles of the Slemish site and the mountain trekkers are encouraged to park at the Michelin plant on the Ballymena side of Broughshane and take a bus, with the last leaving at 3.30pm

Police ahead of time advised road users of traffic delays in the area with local diversions and traffic management in place because of the parade.

One man, who did not wish to be named, said he and his party had no idea the parade was going to happen when they left for Slemish.

They came early, around 10am, and were able to catch the bus to the mountain but did notice a gathering of people. It was much larger on the return just before noon.

“When we tried to go back into Broughshane to get a bite to eat we were not able to do so as the police had blocked off the road,” he said.

“The buses were not able to get through for a time and were backed up. We turned and there was another police check point beyond the Michelin factory. Cars were being stopped at that point.”

The man said that when they drove on to the dual carriageway traffic “was backed up almost all the way to Ballymena”.

Another eyewitness said: "It is just beyond comprehension how this parade was allowed to happen. This is not green or orange, the Slemish walk is for everybody."

Several thousand people make the annual pilgrimage to Slemish, where St Patrick as a young man is said to have worked as a shepherd.

The legend goes that his own real conversion took place while on Slemish out in all weathers, communing with nature and praying continuously.


* Our initial reports on the Braid LOL demonstration of March 17 said that it involved thousands of Orangemen. This was based on Braid LOL's formal declaration to the Parades Commission which said that 2,000 participants and 7,000 spectators were expected to assemble. However, we accept that the actual attendance was substantially lower that the figure given to the Parades Commission.