Young Conway Volunteers outside St Patrick’s Chapel

THE Parades Commission has imposed restrictions on an Apprentice Boys of Derry Remembrance Day march this weekend in north Belfast.

The commission has ruled that only hymn tunes must be played as the bands pass St Patrick’s church in Donegall Street on Saturday.

It has also placed restrictions on a nationalist residents’ protest, but has welcomed recent talks between the two groups.

The ruling follows serious public disorder in north Belfast after both loyalist and nationalists held parades in the area in late August and early September.

The commission said it welcomed the fact that there had been “direct contact” between the parade organisers and representatives of Carrick Hill who have been demanding that marchers show “respect” to their place of worship.

It said that two meetings have recently taken place between the Apprentice Boys and Carrick Hill Concerned Residents (CHRC).

Its determination read: “The commission fully acknowledge that the best outcome to mitigate conflict at this interface around parading is when it is agreed locally and not imposed.”

The commissioners said they had met representatives of the Apprentice Boys who had given them “assurances of good and appropriate behaviour at this parade”.

They also noted: “Previous determinations issued by the commission in respect of this organisation at this location have been adhered to.”

Up to 400 people, including five bands, are expected to take part in the parade from Donegall Pass in south Belfast to Tennent Street in the west of the city.

The Parades Commission has ruled that there are to be no parade supporters between the junction of Donegall Street and Royal Avenue, or between the junction of the Westlink and Clifton Street.

It also restricted the numbers taking part in the residents’ protest to 150.

The first row erupted on July 12, when the loyalist Young Conway Volunteers band taking part in the annual Orange parade in Belfast was filmed marching in circles outside St Patrick’s playing The Famine Song – an anti-Catholic song judged racist by a court in Scotland.

At the time the band said they had not been aware they were outside a Catholic church and maintained they were playing a pop song.

The PSNI have arrested up to a dozen members of the YCV band and have sent files to the Public Prosecution Service.

Since then, the Parades Commission has placed restrictions on loyalist parades passing the church.

Public disorder followed a Royal Black Preceptory parade on Augutst 25 and there were three consecutive nights of rioting after a republican band parade in the nearby area on September 2.

Scores of police officers were injured and dozens of people were arrested as a result of the trouble.

The Royal Black Preceptory later sent a letter of apology to Fr Michael Sheehan of St Patrick’s Church.

However, a major Orange Order parade to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant passed St Patrick’s peacefully on September 28.

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