Northern Ireland

Order anger at parade restriction in east Belfast

The Orange Order has said it will protest to the NI Secretary of State and the Justice Minister over restrictions to the hymns which can be played at an east Belfast parade on Sunday.

In its ruling, the Parades Commission said Abide With Me should be played.

The order's Reverend Mervyn Gibson said the decision was the "thin end of the wedge".

The Commission said the lodge had previously ignored some determinations.

The annual parade, involving Ballymacarrett District LOL No 6, goes to Townsend Street Presbyterian Church from Templemore Avenue and back.

The music restriction applies to the part of the Newtownards Road between the Bridge End flyover and the Susan Street junction.

Rev Gibson said the "unionist community" in the area had not been consulted by the Parades Commission about the decision.

He added that "improving community relations" would be damaged as a result and that a "hand grenade had been thrown into the situation".

"If we want to play Shall We Gather At The River or Onward Christian Soldiers, we can't play those hymns, they have told us to play one specific hymn and we can't understand why," he said.

"It is the thin end of the wedge, it will begin to take away religious freedom as to what people can play at a public parade.

"What is next?"

'Sensitive music'

The Parades Commission said the determination represented "a genuine effort on our part to accommodate the desire of the local lodge to parade and the expressed concerns of local residents".

"Unfortunately some parades in that part of east Belfast, including parades organised by Ballymacarrett LOL No 6 have in the past ignored determinations which restrict them to playing hymn tunes only at interface areas and places of worship," it added.

"In naming one specific, widely known and popular hymn, we are accommodating the parade while attempting to ensure that the music is sensitive, at an interface location past a place of worship on a Sunday, as indicated in the Parades Commission Code of Conduct."

The Commission said it wanted to "have a positive and constructive relationship with everyone involved in parading including representatives of Ballymacarrett LOL No 6".

"We would be open to a committment from them to only play sensitive music at interface locations and places of worship at future parades," it said.

"In the view of the Commission all of these matters would be better addressed in a private dialogue rather than a public exchange of views when there can be a danger of using intemperate language.

"Our door is open, as always, to Ballymacarrett LOL No 6."

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