Northern Ireland

Apprentice Boys parade: Statement 'could stop march protests'

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Media captionThere was a heavy security presence at St Patrick's Catholic Church on Belfast's Donegall Street as one band marched to a single drum-beat.

A nationalist residents' group has said it would hold no more protests against loyalist parades if march organisers made a statement confirming they would abide by Parades Commission rulings.

Carrick Hill Concerned Resident's Group made the remarks as an Apprentice Boys feeder parade passed a north Belfast flashpoint without incident.

One band marched to a single drum-beat past St Patrick's Catholic Church.

The Donegall Street flashpoint was the scene of disorder and arrests in 2012.

On Monday, there was a heavy security presence in the area as the band passed the church on both its outward and return route to the main Apprentice Boys parade in east Belfast.

The Parades Commission had placed restrictions on the Apprentice Boys of Derry Faith Defenders Clifton Branch, ruling that "only sacred music" should be played as the band passed the church.

However, the band played no music and instead marched to a single drum-beat on that part of its route.

Members of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group staged a small protest against the march, in line with the Parades Commission's determination.

The residents welcomed the Apprentice Boys' move but were critical that they had not been told in advance.

Chairperson Frank Dempsey said there would be no need for protests in future if determinations were abided by.

"If they want to send a message to the nationalist community and to the parishioners of St Patrick's Church, why don't they just issue a public statement and clearly state we will do this all the time," he said.

"If they do that, we're gone. We don't want to be standing here, but don't be coming down here with gestures, it's something positive we're looking for, make a statement to say, this is us in future."

Feeder parades

Chris McGimpsey from the Apprentice Boys said they would "need to think about" Mr Dempsey's request, but said they have not ruled out the possibility of providing assurance that they will abide by Parades Commission's determinations in the future.

"We have been behaving like that at all of our parades in the Apprentice Boys, and nobody in our club has caused any offence whatsoever.

"Indeed, not so long ago the parish priest wrote to us and congratulated us on our deportment," Mr McGimpsey added.

The Apprentice Boys staged the main part of their annual Easter parade in east Belfast, with a number of other feeder parades throughout the city.

Image caption Republicans commemorated the 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising rebellion at an event in Derry's city cemetery

Meanwhile, more than 100 people attended a republican commemoration in the city cemetery in Londonderry.

It was held to mark the 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising rebellion.

In previous years, the Derry event has been addressed by masked dissident republicans, but there was no paramilitary statement this year.

Speakers criticised Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for his attendance in London during the first UK state visit of Irish President Michael D Higgins.

Mr McGuinness, a former IRA leader, was invited to receptions at Windsor Castle as a guest of the Queen and Mr Higgins earlier this month.

One of the speakers at the Derry commemoration described the Sinn Féin MLA as a "pawn in someone else's strategy".

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