Bands taking part in the annual Tour of the North parade in Belfast tonight defied a Parades Commission ruling by playing hymns instead of a single drum beat tonight.
An initial feeder parade up Donegall Street before the main parade simply played a single drum beat.
However as the main parade came down the street minutes later, each of the bands played a hymn while passing close by the mainly nationalist Carrick Hill area and St Patrick’s Catholic church.
The Parades Commission ruling said only a single drumbeat should be played between Stanhope Street and the junction of Carrick Hill at 18 Clifton Street. However the bands played hymns.
While hymns were allowed to be played between the junction of Carrick Hill at 18 Clifton Street and the junction of Donegall Street and Union Street. The bands played hymns in these parts.
Both the Carrick Hill and the Queen Street residents had been allowed 30 each in their separate protests, however there appeared to be more than that among the Queen Street group.
Belfast DUP MLAs Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey, along with Belfast’s Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford, DUP councillor Brian Kingston and UUP councillor Mark Cosgrove were among the brethren on parade, while Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin stood among the Carrick Hill protesters and SDLP MLA Alban Maguinness also watched proceedings.
While the parade passed without trouble, it was later attacked by republicans at Peter’s Hill.
There was a visibly heavy police presence at the event which took place around 7.30pm.
An altercation took place between republicans and police in the Carrick Hill area following the end of the parade.
Earlier this week the Orange Order reacted with outrage when the Parades Commission refused to overturn its ruling that only a single drum beat should be played along Donegall Street.
The PSNI have said that two men were arrested this evening.
Chief Superintendent George Clarke, District Commander for North and West Belfast commented that the parade was largely peaceful but that police are investigating a number of incidents.
“These include suspected breaches of the Parades Commission determination and an attempt by a number of youths to disrupt the procession as it passed Peter’s Hill,” he said,
“Officers in the area of Peter’s Hill quickly brought the situation under control and separated the youths from the procession.
“In total, two males were arrested for offences during the duration of the parade. A 20 year old male was arrested for disorderly behaviour and a 16 year old male was arrested for provocative conduct.
“Anyone with information in relation to either of these incidents is asked to contact detectives at Antrim Road PSNI on 0845 600 800.”
Last week the Orange Order published it’s protocol for parades along Donegall Street this summer, which included a commitment to play only hymns while passing St Patrick’s church and facilitating any events such as weddings, christenings and funerals which were taking place in the church.
Last year the route became controversial when it was claimed the Young Conway Volunteers played The Famine Song outside St Patrick’s Church, The band denied this, and said they were played a Beach Boys song titled Sloop John B.
In a statement following the parade, the Orange Order in Belfast said: “Orangemen, women and bands paraded with dignity and showed respect at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Chapel.
“This evening’s parade proved that the comprehensive template, issued earlier this month, was a genuine effort aimed at resolving the issue concerning St Patrick’s.
“We are saddened that citizens of this city of Belfast were prevented from walking along a main thoroughfare and it makes a mockery of a so-called shared city.
“We are glad the annual event passed off peacefully; we thank our supporters and look forward to celebrating our culture and heritage in a traditional manner.”
Speaking after the parade, DUP MLA Nelson McCausland said it had been a pleasure to take part in.
“It was a pleasure to take part in what was an excellent Tour of the North parade this evening,” he said.
“I wish to commend the many lodges and bands on parade and the large crowds who turned out in the Greater Shankill area to support the parade and provide a warm welcome on what was a wet evening.
“All of the bands showed respect and played hymns while passing St Patrick’s Church at the start of the evening and the lodges and bands continued to display discipline throughout the parade to the high standard that we expect from the Orange Order.
“This was an excellent start to the main parading season, in spite of the spoiling actions of the Parades Commission.”