There were scuffles during an anti-Catholic parade past St Patrick’s Catholic church in north Belfast on Sunday.
Despite the opposition of nationalist residents of Carrick Hill, the Protestant Orange Order had received permission for a parade which was ostensibly to mark the ‘Annual reformation and Thanksgiving church service’.
The parade of around 300 Orangemen and four bands paraded past the church which has become a focus of Protestant sectarian hate in recent years.
As the parade was passing the church, loyalist bandsmen shouted abuse and began to assault local residents before riot police moved in.
A loyalist crowd at Union Street then tried to make their way up Donegall Street towards a residents’ protest but were prevented from doing so.
Connected to parades past Carrick hill and St Patrick’s church have continued since July last year when bandsmen were filmed walking in circles and playing a sectarian tune outside the church.
A major loyalist parade planned for Belfast later this month is causing increasing concern.
A group calling itself ‘Loyal Peaceful Protesters’ has applied to bring up to 10,000 people and 40 bands into the centre to mark the first anniversary of Belfast city council’s controversial decision to limit the flying of the British Union Jack at the city hall.
The same group organised an illegal parade through the city centre last month. It is feared this month’s parade could attempt to reignite the flag disturbances, illegal parades and roadblocks which created chaos for Belfast commuters last winter.
The issue of sectarian parades features prominently on the agenda of US negotiator Richard Haass, who is again holding talks in Belfast this weekend.
The former US envoy is chairing formal talks among the parties and other groups on the issues of flags, parading and dealing with the past conflict.
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Haass said no individual problem would be allowed to prevent agreement on others.
He said he was conducting the talks as an “open process”.
“I’m open-minded about the specifics but we’re not beginning with a clean slate - we’ll look at ways we can take that into account and then move forward,” he said.
He added: “I don’t believe in words like deal-breakers. This is a complex process, it’s not a traditional negotiation where it’s all or nothing.”