Northern Ireland

Covenant Parade: Court rejects legal challenge

The High Court has rejected a legal challenge over the parades commission determination on Saturday's Ulster Covenant centenary parade.

A resident of the Carrick Hill area contested the ruling.

The ruling allows bands to play religious music passing St Patricks's Church in north Belfast and limits any protest to 150 people.

Mr Justice Treacy described the judical review as "futile."

He told the court in Belfast; "Troubled waters that have been calmed should not be disturbed by such futile judicial reviews."

On Thursday night, Carrick Hill residents said they objected to the ruling but would adhere to it.

Friday's action was taken by a parishioner of St Patrick's Church who is not a member of Carrick Hill Residents Association. They have been granted anonymity.

Their lawyer had argued that some hymn tunes can be set to different words which could make them sectarian.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he hoped the parade would be peaceful.

"The PSNI will be working hard to ensure that the Ulster Covenant parade takes place peacefully and in a way that brings credit to all concerned.

"I know that this is the wish of the vast majority across all communities and I would ask for the fullest co-operation with police in helping us to keep everyone safe.

"I am grateful for both the political and local leadership that should make this possible."

On Thursday night Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she hoped there would eventually be a local solution to parading issues.

But Ms Villiers told The View on BBC One she was still concerned about what might happen this weekend.

"I think everyone is nervous about how it will go on Saturday but I also think huge efforts have gone into dialogue to conversations," she said.

"Huge efforts are going into trying to ensure that it is an occasion which can be commemorated in a respectful and tolerant way."

On Thursday night, Carrick Hill residents called for a peaceful protest during the parade.

Chairman Frank Dempsey said he did not want people from outside the area joining the protest.

"We will have a dignified protest on Saturday," he added.

Image caption NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she hoped there would be a local solution to parading issues.

The Parades Commission has also ruled that there should be no loyalist supporters on the section of the route passing the church, while the numbers of nationalist protesters have been limited to 150.

The Orange Order expects up to 30,000 marchers to take part in the event.

Reverend Mervyn Gibson said making sure the parade passed off peacefully was the priority.

Last month, seven police officers were injured when trouble broke out after several loyalist bands defied a Parades Commission ruling by playing music as they marched past the church.

The Royal Black Institution, which had organised the 25 August parade, later apologised "for any offence caused" to clergy and parishioners at St Patrick's.

In an open letter, it said its anger was not directed at the Catholic church.

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