A leading Orangeman has praised those involved in Friday’s Tour of the North parade and said their dignity should be recognised by the Parades Commission.
Rev Mervyn Gibson said that restrictions placed on the annual north Belfast event were unnecessary – and did not reflect the Orange Order’s peaceful approach to the parade.
Fifteen bands and more than 1,000 members of the Order took part in the parade which attracted protests from residents’ groups in both the North Queen Street and Carrick Hill areas.
Rev Gibson, who is Belfast County chaplain, said: “The Order was very dignified – there are never plans for violence or trouble.
“It is those who show little respect or try to oppose us. We have seen nitpicking, and trying to extend [the protest activity] to other areas, and trying to raise tensions unnecessarily.”
Despite an offer from the Order to play only hymns as the bands passed St Patrick’s Catholic church on Donegall Street, the Parades Commission directed that only a single drumbeat could be sounded along that section of the route.
Rev Gibson said there were attempts to “demonise” the Order, and added: “The Parades Commission has shown that they are not part of the solution – they are part of the problem.
“The commission is trying to make the Order look sinister with the single drumbeat determination, so we can’t expect much for the future, but we will continue to work to ensure a peaceful July.”