Nationalist residents have asked the Apprentice Boys why they intend to hold a parade past St Patrick’s Church in Belfast involving just 25 people.
The organisation had not applied for any bands to take part in the parade. The ‘Faith Defenders Clifton ‘want to walk almost half a mile from Clifton Street Orange Hall to York Street, from where they are expected to make the onward bus journey to Derry for the main parade.
An Apprentice Boys parade past the flashpoint earlier this month ended in controversy when a loyalist band breached a Parades Commission ruling by playing the sectarian Famine Song as it passed Carrick Hill. Tensions in the area have been high since the Shankill Road-based Young Conway Volunteers were filmed walking in circles while playing the same song outside St Patrick’s on July 12, and since there have been five parades organised by loyalists to pass the church, with violence breaking out on one occasion.
The unusually long Protestant marching season has been linked to a continuing low level of sectarian incidents. In the past week, nationalists were blamed for vandalising an Orange Hall and a British Army war memorial in isolated areas of County Derry and Antrim, while a tricolour was placed on an abandoned Orange Hall in Ballycastle.
Frank Dempsey of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Committee asked why the Apprentice Boys wanted to walk past the flashpoint again.
“Why can’t they just get on their bus at the Orange Hall at Clifton Street, or is this a case of ‘we will walk where we want and to hell with you’?” Mr Dempsey said.
“Why would anybody want to walk down past a Catholic area to get a bus to Derry when they can get a bus at Clifton Street, go down a slip road beside the hall and be on their way?
“Another issue is that if they can walk down here this time without a band then why can’t they do it all the time?”
However, he said residents had called off a planned protest for tomorrow’s parade as an “act of good will”.
“Despite the breaking of the last determination on November 10 by playing the Famine Song, Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group has decided to call off their protest as an act of good will, both on the outward and return journey but will have observers on the streets,” he said.
“From the outset of the parade dispute all this community has asked for is respect and if the Apprentice Boys can walk past in silence on December 1 surely then its not much to ask that the bands that accompany them in other parades do the same.”