‘First major test of parading season’ passes off peacefully

The Tour of the North parade makes its way through north Belfast
The Tour of the North parade makes its way through north Belfast
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A north Belfast band parade that was described as “setting the tone” for much of the parading season has passed off without major incident.

The Orange Order’s annual ‘Tour of the North’ had been prohibited by the Parades Commission from playing music “within earshot” of St Patrick’s Catholic church in Donegall Street, and all 13 bands abided by the ruling.

Tour of the North parade as it makes its way along Donegall Street in Belfast. ''Picture: Kevin Scott / Presseye

Tour of the North parade as it makes its way along Donegall Street in Belfast. ''Picture: Kevin Scott / Presseye

However, a spokesman for the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast said an earlier feeder parade to the United Districts event had stones thrown at it in the Lancaster Street area.

The spokesman said the attack was in stark contrast to the “dignity and respect” the bands and lodges had shown to St Patrick’s by playing only a single drumbeat in the vicinity. He said the stone throwing incident has been reported to the police.

“Despite such intolerance and sectarianism; we thank our supporters and look forward to celebrating our culture and heritage in a traditional manner,” he said.

A notified protest against the parade by the Carrick Hill Residents’ Association was called off in advance, but a number of residents turned out to watch the parade pass along Donegall Street.

Friday night’s parade, involving 13 bands and 1,000 participants, made its way from Denmark Street to Hopefield Street via the city centre and Twaddell Avenue.

Supporters were banned from accompanying the marchers but around 100 loyalists gathered at the police cordon, close to the junction of Donegall Street and York Street, to cheer the end of the drumbeat only restriction.

PSNI commander for the area Nigel Grimshaw said the efforts of all involved in ensuring a peaceful evening would create a “positive platform for dealing with sensitive parades throughout the coming months”.

Speaking ahead of last night’s event, SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said he welcomed the cancellation of the protest.

“Throughout this entire dispute the only thing that the residents of Carrick Hill and the parishioners of St Patrick’s have asked for is to be treated with respect and they have acted with dignity, he added.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the Orange Order respecting the Parades Commission determination was to be welcomed.

The North Belfast MLA said: “I am convinced that the only way to resolve issues around parading is through genuine and inclusive dialogue with local communities.”