Tour Of The North first test of parading season

The annual 'Tour of the North' parade will have 13 bands and 1,000 participants
The annual 'Tour of the North' parade will have 13 bands and 1,000 participants

The first major test of the parading season comes tonight with the Orange Order’s Tour of the North, taking in Belfast’s Donegall Street.

Following two years of abiding by Parades Commission determinations on the behaviour of participants, the Order has been angered that stricter restrictions have now been imposed.

The latest commission determination prevents the 13 bands involved playing music “within earshot” of St Patrick’s Catholic church in Donegall Street, as well as prohibiting supporters from following the parade into the city centre along that stretch of the route.

A judicial review taken by the parade organisers – in the hope of having a number of restrictions rescinded – will be heard in a Belfast court this morning.

Tonight’s annual Tour of the North parade, involving 13 bands and 1,000 participants, will make its way from Denmark Street to Hopefield Street via the city centre and Twaddell Avenue.

One of the most contentious rulings is that bands are not permitted to play music “within earshot” of St Patrick’s Catholic church in Donegall Street.

County grand chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson said the chairwoman of the Parades Commission, Anne Henderson, should reverse her policy of “not engaging” with the media to be more accountable.

Rev Gibson added: “We always call for a lawful and peaceful parading season, but sadly the signs aren’t good at the moment.

“We have seen the intolerance of Carrick Hill residents, the writing on the wall in Glengormley, and the ongoing intransigence at Twaddell.”

Meanwhile, republicans have been accused of attempting to stir up sectarian tensions in Glengormley ahead of an important event in the Orange calender. In the early hours of yesterday, dissident republican slogans were painted on a number of business premises as well as the former PSNI station.

DUP MLA Paula Bradley said the incident was a “blatant attempt” to cause difficulties ahead of next Tuesday’s opening of an Orange arch.