Orange Order: No one will have veto over our Ulster Covenant parade

“No one will have a veto over our Ulster Covenant parade”, says Mervyn Gibson, county grand chaplain of the Orange Order in Belfast (as reported in the Tele):

Mr Gibson said that the organisation had consulted with clergy and parishioners from St Patrick’s but that it did not feel compelled to consult with residents regarding the parade. “The reason we are not speaking to residents at this stage is that the issue was respect for St Patrick’s Church,” he added. “That was what was called for with the Black Institution (on August 25) and that is what was called for on the Twelfth of July. “The people to talk to are those at the centre of that — the clergy and the parishioners. And we entered into negotiations — quiet conversations — with the clergy and parishioners. “Now, a new demand has come. How many more groups do we need to talk to? We listened and we took on board what the clergy and parishioners said and playing hymns is our response.” [my emphasis]

Gibson’s statement is undermined somewhat by Fr Michael Sheehan from St Patrick’s who was reported earlier in the week as saying:

…he was disappointed that Carrick Hill Concerned Residents, “who reached out with no objection to parades in principle or specific requirements for re-routing, will not be engaged with in any way. I am also bewildered that they are being excluded from ‘the conversations’,” he said.

For those with a very short memory, these are some key parts of the determination that the Parades Commission made in August (which was ignored by the Orders):

The Parades Commission’s determination is that the following conditions are placed on the organiser, participants and supporters in the parade by The Membership of the City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter on Saturday, 25 August 2012.

A.    On the outward morning parade and the evening return parade no music other than a single drumbeat is to be played on that part of the notified route between the junction of Clifton Street and Trinity Street and the junction of Union Street and Donegall Street.

B.    On the outward morning parade and the evening return parade the Young Conway Volunteers band and its members are prohibited from processing that part of the notified route between the junction of Clifton Street and Trinity Street and the junction of Union Street and Donegall Street.

D.    The Commission re-affirms that all participants in this parade must behave with due regard for the rights, traditions and feelings of others in the vicinity; refrain from using words or behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as intentionally sectarian, provocative, threatening, abusive, insulting or lewd; obey the lawful directions of parade organisers and stewards at all times, from assembly to dispersal and comply with police directions and in accordance with legislation.

E.    The Commission re-affirms the importance of respectful behaviour in the vicinity of interface areas, namely that there shall be no singing, chanting, or loud drumming and that marching should be dignified.  More generally, no paramilitary-style clothing is to be worn at any time during the parade and flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation shall in no circumstances be displayed.

Interestingly, various outlets were running with the Orange Order ‘initiative to defuse tensions‘ line earlier in the week, when they were actually wanting to do what the Parades Commission told them couldn’t do in August. If you read below the fold in the BelTel piece, there is a statement about timing of parades from Paul McMahon, vice-president of the Chamber of Comm, following a meeting with the Parades Commission at Windsor House:

“We have presented hard evidence that the recent Black Institution parade contributed to significant losses for our retailers, losses which will never be recouped.”

Meanwhile, the Parades Commission itself is delaying making a decision in the hope that some compromise arises. With no apparent rush to prosecute anyone for breaking the law back in August before the Covenant parades, are the Parades Commission going to cave while the DPP and going to simply fail to uphold the law?

UPDATE: The Parades Commission have opted for the hymns, no supporters and 150 person protest as their determination. Thus we now have the paradox that the protesting residents and parishioners have to observe the determination while the Orange Order have to demand it is upheld. If the protestors breach it, the Orders aren’t actually in a position to object although, obviously they would present themselves as hypocrites if they do – however, as the Orders set that precedent all anyone can hope for, for now, is that it all passes without incident.

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