Northern Ireland

Parades Commission ruling on Remembrance Day march past Belfast flashpoint

loyalist band marches past protesters
Image caption Police officers have been injured and dozens of people have been arrested following parades in the area

The Parades Commission has placed restrictions on a march due to pass a parade flashpoint in north Belfast on Saturday.

The march has been organised by the Apprentice Boys of Derry to mark Remembrance Day.

The commission has ruled that only hymn tunes must be played as the bands pass St Patrick's church in Donegall St.

It has also placed restrictions on a residents' protest, but has welcomed recent talks between the two groups.

'Direct contact'

The ruling follows serious public disorder in north Belfast after both loyalist and nationalists held parades in the area in late August and early September.

In its latest determination, the commission said it welcomed the fact that there had been "direct contact" between the parade organisers and representatives of Carrick Hill - the nationalist housing estate close to St Patrick's.

Many residents from the estate have been involved in previous protests against loyalist parades passing the church, demanding that the marchers show "respect" to their place of worship.

Tuesday's Parades Commission ruling stated that two meetings have recently taken place between the Apprentice Boys and Carrick Hill Concerned Residents.

"The commission fully acknowledge that the best outcome to mitigate conflict at this interface around parading is when it is agreed locally and not imposed," the document stated.

The commissioners said they had met representatives of the Apprentice Boys who had given them "assurances of good and appropriate behaviour at this parade".

They also noted: "Previous determinations issued by the commission in respect of this organisation at this location have been adhered to."

Wreath laying

Up to 400 people, including five bands, are expected to take part in the parade from Donegall Pass in south Belfast to Tennent Street in the west of the city.

The marchers will pause twice along the route to lay wreaths for the war dead at Belfast City Hall and Shankill Garden of Remembrance.

The Parades Commission has ruled that there are to be no parade supporters between the junction of Donegall Street and Royal Avenue, or between the junction of the Westlink and Clifton Street.

It also restricted the numbers taking part in the residents' protest to 150.

The controversy surrounding the church first arose on 12 July, when a loyalist band taking part in the annual Orange parade in Belfast was filmed marching in circles outside St Patrick's playing The Famine Song - an anti-Catholic song judged racist by a court in Scotland.

At the time the band, the Young Conway Volunteers, said they had not been aware they were outside a Catholic church and maintained they were playing a pop song.

Peaceful parade

Since then, the Parades Commission has placed restrictions on loyalist parades passing St Patrick's.

Public disorder followed a Royal Black Preceptory march past the church on 25 August and there were three consecutive nights of rioting after a republican band parade in the nearby area on 2 September.

Scores of police officers were injured and dozens of people were arrested as a result of the trouble.

However, a major Orange Order parade to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant passed St Patrick's peacefully on 28 September.

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