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Loyal order apologises to Catholic parish for marching band music

The Royal Black Institution, a Protestant fraternity, played music outside a Catholic church in spite of advice from the Parades Commission.

Members of the Royal Black Institution defied a Parades Commission recommendation not to play music outside a Catholic church along its parade route.
Members of the Royal Black Institution defied a Parades Commission recommendation not to play music outside a Catholic church along its parade route.
Image: Peter Morrison/AP

A MAJOR LOYAL ORDER in Northern Ireland has made an unprecedented apology to a Catholic parish in Belfast after ignoring a ruling from an independent body which said it should not play music outside its church.

The Royal Black Institution, a Protestant fraternity whose members are also members of the Orange Order, had played music outside St Patrick’s Church on Donegall St in the north of the city during its annual ‘Last Saturday’ parade on August 25.

It had played the music in spite of a recommendation from the Parades Commission that marching bands not play music outside religious sites as it could be seen as provocation.

The Irish News said supporters of the institution had also shouted abuse at the parish priest, Fr Michael Sheehan, as he stood on the church steps observing the parade as it passed.

The paper said it believed the apology was the first time that a loyal order had apologised for the conduct of its members at a parade.

“We apologise for any offence to the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s Church,” the order said in a statement.

“We have always had good lines of communication with the Roman Catholic Church and we would intend to continue to maintain and consolidate these, away from the public gaze.”

Fr Michael Sheehan told the BBC: “I welcome this positive development and the sincere Christian spirit behind it.”

Attack on Parades Commission

The statement added, however, that the Parades Commission was “an unelected quango” and called for the body to be scrapped – echoing calls from the North’s first minister, Peter Robinson, who two weeks ago had signed a letter decrying the Commission’s advice.

“Parading is embedded in the DNA of the Protestant community but the Parades Commission has shown an appalling lack of understanding about what that means,” the statement said.

They [the Commission] consistently pander to the demands of people who have gone out of their way to be offended and whose aim is to remove all traces of the Reformed Christian Faith and cleanse Protestant culture from society.

The tensions as a result of the march had been a contributing factor to recent nights of violence in the Carlisle Circus area of the city, though the first night of violence on Sunday directly followed a parade by the republican Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band.

The Parades Commission had not placed any restrictions on that march, despite its route going through unionist areas – a decision loyalists rejected given that restrictions had been placed on the Royal Black parade and others.

The Last Saturday march is not usually held in Belfast city, but had been held in the capital this year to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant – a petition of almost half a million people who opposed the growing moves in Westminster to grant ‘Home Rule’ to Ireland through a parliament in Dublin.

The recent tensions in the North had dampened hopes that the centenary of the Covenant’s signing later this month could be marked peacefully. An Orange Order parade is scheduled for Belfast on September 29.

Read: Third night of disturbances in Belfast

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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