THERE were hopes last night of a deal to prevent violence at a massive parade later this month after it emerged a contentious loyalist band will not pass a flashpoint. The Young Conway Volunteers will not march past St Patrick‘s Church in central Belfast but may join the Ulster Covenant centenary parade later on the route.
The Shankill – based band’s decision came as the Orange Order released what is being seen as a conciliatory statement inviting the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, and clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s to visit its headquarters at Schomberg House. It said bands passing the church on September 29th would play only hymns. More than 20,000 participants are expected in the parade which will take hours to pass through the city centre. The Irish News understands that meetings between Carrick Hill Residents Association and the Catholic Church representatives including St Patrick’s administrator Fr Michael Sheehan were held yesterday in an effort to resolve outstanding issues. Mervyn Gibson chaplain to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said the order had held ” quiet conversations ” with Catholic clergy.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the order should meet residents. ” Conversations to resolve these issues must involve those who file for the parade, the Grand Lodge and those who file for the related protest, the Carrick Hill Residents Association,” he said. ” That has not happened and the Orange Order need to explain why they have not taken this step.” Tensions have been high in north Belfast since the Twelfth of July when the Young Conway Volunteers were filmed marching in circles outside St Patrick’s while playing the Famine Song and other sectarian tunes. There was violence on August 25th when the band ignored a Parades Commission ruling forbidding them to march past the church. More than 30 other bands also flouted a ruling by playing music. Chaplain to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, last night confirmed the band would not be taking part in the September 29th parade past the church. He said the Orange Order did not stop the band from passing the church and admitted it would join the main procession on another section of the route. ” They decided themselves and will be in another part of the parade,” Mr Gibson said. ” We did not tell them, they were not involved in that part of the parade. However, the OrangeOrder has refused to meet representatives of Carrick Hill Residents Association which has applied to hold a protest in opposition to the Ulster Covenant parade as it passes St Patrick’s.
North Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly last night also said ” that has not happened and the Orange Order need to explain why they have not taken this step. ” Time is running out for a resolution with the parade less than two weeks away.” North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the decision to play only hymn music was ” positive and constructive “. ” It is welcome that there have been quiet but constructive conversations between the institution and others with clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church,” he said. A spokesman for the Parades Commission, which is due to meet today to consider the parade, said a decision could be deferred if progress was made behind the scenes. ” While the commission’s guidelines recommend that its determinations are issued five days in advance of a parade taking place, there is scope to defer a decision if this would help those involved reach a local understanding,” a spokesman said.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : CONNIA YOUNG, IRISH NEWS.
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- Order apology to Catholic church (bbc.co.uk)
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- DUP and Sinn Fein in war of words over loyalist band’s shameful display outside Catholic church (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)