Tonight’s ‘Tour of the North’ parade passes a number of nationalist communities in north Belfast, and is one of the most contentious parades of the anti-Catholic Orange Order’s marching season.
Fifteen loyalist flute bands have been permitted to take part in the parade by the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on the conditions of contentious parades.
The Orange Order has always refused requests to meet nationalist residents, and insists on its right to march where it likes.
The organisation was told that its bands should play a single drumbeat while passing the Carrick Hill district during the parade, and to play only hymns when passing St Patrick’s Catholic Church, for many years a focus of sectarian insults by Orangemen.
The commission’s previous determinations, which are considered to have the force of law, have been routinely ignored by both marchers and the police.
It was also announced this week that three sectarian parades due to take place along the same contentious stretch in the Carrick Hill area over the course of eight days have been issued with no real restrictions. The three parades which will take place on June 30, July 1 and July 7, have been cleared to play flute music along the entire parade route.
The organisers of the Tour of the North, which involves over 1,000 loyalists, described the latest Parades Commission rulings as “vindictive and draconian”.
Frank Dempsey, spokesman for Carrick Hill Concerned Residents’ Committee, hailed the failure of unionist efforts to have the restrictions removed.
“Whether or not we agreed with the determination in the first place is irrelevant. The fact is that for once the loyal orders in conjunction with unionist politicians haven’t got their own way,” he said.
A new nationalist residents’ group in north Belfast has also vowed to oppose parades past St Patrick’s Church.
A spokeswoman said there was concern about tens of thousands of loyalists marching past the church this summer.
“That is our parish and the church we go to and it needs to be respected,” she said.
“When these parades are on people are blocked into their own areas. They can’t get in or out, movement is restricted.
“We all went through this years ago when were young and they are still doing this so what has changed? If anything it has got worse.”
The spokeswoman said the new group intended to be peaceful.
Carrick Hill residents have been told by the Parades Commission they can hold a protest involving thirty people at a car park close to St Patrick’s this evening, while the same number can protest between Trinity Street to Clifton Street. The new group have been told thirty people can hold a protest close to the junction of north Queen Street and Clifton Street.