BY Ian Dunn | September 26 | comments icon 2 COMMENTS     print icon print


Belfast priest appeals for calm before Orange parade past his parish

Northern Ireland Parades Commission rules marchers can pass St Patrick’s Church on Saturday, playing hymns, but followers cannot

The parish priest of St Patrick’s Church (above) in Belfast appealed today for calm after the Northern Ireland Parades Commission ruled that a contentious Orange Order parade will be allowed to march past his parish church on Saturday.

The body has also ruled that only hymns are to be played by the expected 30,000 marchers and no Loyalists are to follow the parade in that area after a series of sectarian acts were committed during an Orange Order march past the Church earlier this year.

Fr Michael Sheehan of St Patrick’s said that he was very disappointed that a local solution had not been found to the dispute and that details of meetings he had been involved in with the Orange Order were not kept secret.

“I have been sorely disappointed that quiet and confidential conversations between representatives of the Orange Order and the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s have been commented on publicly and without any recourse to the clergy and parishioners involved,” the priest said. “I believe that it is neither helpful nor desirable, at this time, to publicly debate what was said or not said at the two meetings, but at this stage I must make it clear that it was my hope and understanding that these conversations would ultimately lead to discussions with the residents. It is indeed unfortunate and regrettable that this did not happen.”

The priest said that he now hoped the march would pass off peacefully.

“In the absence of local agreement, the Parades Commission has now made their determination about this parade,” he said. “It is incumbent on all law abiding citizens to adhere to their determination.  In advance of the parade I would appeal for calm and respect over the coming days.”

On July 12 this year a band was filmed marching in a circle outside the church, playing a tune perceived to be sectarian during a delay in the main Orange Order parade.

In August, bands defied a ruling banning music at the church. In the subsequent riots, seven police officers were injured.

The local Carrick Hill Residents Association is seeking legal advice with a view to a possible judicial review of the commission’s determination.

Its chairman Frank Dempsey said they were ‘disappointed and bewildered’ by the ruling.

“We see no reason not to abide by this, although disappointed,” he said. “We are seeking legal advice on why this determination came about.”

The march on September 29 is part of events marking 100 years since the signing of the Ulster Covenant. The Covenant was signed by just under half a million men and women on and before September 28 1912.  It was signed in protest against the Third Home Rule Bill, which would have brought in an Irish parliament with responsibility for Irish domestic affairs.

Comments - 2 Responses

  1. john hood says:

    hopefully father sheehan,and the residents of carrick hill,will be spared the anti-catholic bile that follows these triumphalist walks,as for only being allowed to play “hymns”,why would a supposedly christian organisition like the orange order claims to be,want to antagonise fellow christians?….time the parades commission stood up to these bigots,allow them to walk in there own areas,irish republicans never seem to have the need to inflame tensions,by marching in loyalist areas…..

  2. It is not enought for fr. Sheenen to say that he hopes the march would pass off peacefully, there should be massive protection by the police on this day to stop violence, and a protest to the Parades Commission to start making decisions for the good of all the people.

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