The anti-Catholic Orange Order has admitted it again acted illegally in breaking a Parades Commission ruling during its latest march past St Patrick’s Church in Belfast.
The lunchtime parade at the city centre flashpoint last weekend was ostensibly held to mark the 16th century Protestant reformation, and took place amid a token demonstration by local residents.
The parade reflected a loyalist determination to continue marching past the church which has become a focus for nationalist protests since a ‘kick the Pope’ band was filmed playing sectarian music there on July 12 this year. Violence erupted following breaches of a Parades Commission determination at another loyal order march in August. Nationalist residents had become weary of protests which were routinely ignored by the Parades Commission, the PSNI and the loyalists.
On Saturday, the Orange Order again ignored a ruling of the Parades Commission that only hymns were to be played outside the Catholic church on Donegall Street yesterday, and only a single drum beat between the Westlink and the end of Clifton Street past Carrick Hill. Breaches were repeated on the return route later in the afternoon.
One band included loyalist extremist Willie Frazer. St Patrick’s administrator Fr Michael Sheehan stood at the gates of his church watching the marchers on the outward leg of the route.
About 15 residents - mostly women - were at each side of the road. Members of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Committee also held small protests as the march passed.
The Orange Orde admitted it had breached the legally-binding determination on music during the march, which was to celebrate the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
“We know it was supposed to be a single drum beat,” a spokesman said.
Nevertheless, Fr Sheehan said he felt the Orangemen had respected the church. “The first three bands that passed rarely used their drums,” he said. “I didn’t recognise one of the hymns, but that is one for us to learn.”
Frank Dempsey of the residents’ group also said the general conduct of marchers was better but was not happy with the breach of determinations. “Hopefully and as a result of demands by the Carrick Hill community, it has had the effect we hoped it would have,” he said.
“There was a breach but we are glad it went over peacefully. But we have to ask, what is the point of Carrick Hill residents abiding by Parades Commission determinations when the Orange Order has continually breached determinations?”
Fr Sheehan and Mr Dempsey said the Orange Order also needed to start talking to the residents.