29 Sep 2012

Belfast enjoys peaceful start to Ulster parade

Belfast has enjoyed a peaceful day on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster covenant, despite worries that violence would flare.

An estimated 30,000 marchers have taken part in teh Orange Order parade today, from Belfast’s city hall to the grounds of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont in east Belfast. Concerns were raised ahead of today’s event that violence could mar the event following clashes over the summer.

However, the day has passed so far without violence.

One of the potential flash points during today’s Unionist parades in Belfast was the St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Donegall Street.

More than 2,000 Orangemen paraded past St Patrick’s Church on Donegal Street today, where violence has flared over the summer, without incident.

The marchers, who were surrounded by a heavy police presence, had previously agreed to only play hymns along the stretch of road. Fifty police landrovers were stationed along the stretch of road.

Orangemen played songs such as Abide With Me and Onward Christian Soldiers, during the 20-minute parade past the church.


Father Michael Sheehan, administrator of St Patrick’s, said: “They marched with dignity down the road. I think a degree of respect was shown that hasn’t been shown before.”

The Parades Commission has placed a sacred music restriction on various parts of the route, including St Patrick’s Church. Another flashpoint where music is restricted is St Matthew’s Catholic Church in Newtownards Road, near Stormont.

Politicians from across the political divide have appealed for calm at the event which is set to be one of the biggest loyal order parades seen in Belfast.

The parade is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, when half a million Irish men and women signed a document telling London they would use any means necessary to stay as a part of the UK and oppose Irish Home Rule.