Parades will play only hymns past St Patrick’s in Belfast

Nationalist protesters outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast as a Orange Parade  Passes in 2012
Nationalist protesters outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast as a Orange Parade Passes in 2012

The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast has announced that all parades under their jurisdiction that pass St Patrick’s Chapel will play hymns only for the rest of 2014.

In the summer of 2012 Donegall Street parades became contentious after it was claimed the Young Conway Volunteers played a sectarian song outside the Catholic church, St Patrick’s.

The Orange Order later apologised for any offence caused by the incident, during a visit to parish priest Fr Michael Sheehan.

Yesterday the Orange Order said that as well as imposing a hymns-only directive on parades passing the chapel, “steps will also be taken to ensure no one on parade will stop outside the chapel”.

In 2012 nationalists expressed anger at bandsmen marching in circles outside the church, although the Order insisted this was normal practice when the parade was being delayed.

The Order said yesterday it hoped its no-stop and hymns-only directive “will be welcomed by all concerned and accepted in the spirit made”.

It added that the “open invitation from the County for further conversations with the parish priest and members of the congregation remains live”.

The move comes after the Apprentice Boys voluntarily opted to play just a single drum beat when passing the church in April.

The News Letter contacted Fr Sheehan at St Patrick’s Church yesterday, however he said he had not yet read the statement and was therefore unable to comment.

North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey welcomed the Order’s hymns-only proposal for the rest of 2014.

It was “the latest in a number of positive steps taken by the Order”, he said, adding: “As reported in a television documentary last night [Tuesday] it is clear that there are nationalist residents in north Belfast who do want to see a resolution to the parade dispute on the Crumlin Road.

“Unfortunately some who purport to represent residents have an attitude of intransigence and a total opposition to any parade taking place.

“The Orange Institution has been pro-active and positive in the steps taken in an attempt to find a resolution.

“Unfortunately such measures have too often found no reciprocation from nationalists and a Parades Commission which has bowed to the threat of dissident violence.”

The Order said its initiative applies to all 2014 parades which it has planned to go past the chapel – on June 20, 29; July 1, 6, 12; and October 26.