Bandsmen get ready to march in Belfast in the name of the Union

Upstairs in a social club in a protestant housing estate off the Shankill Road, I'm watching some of the bandsmen who'll be marching in the Covenant parade do their practice.

There's football on in the bar downstairs, so the noise is kept down.

They drum on plastic pads, breathe softly into their flutes and stroke rather than clash their cymbals together.

The young men and boys of the Shankill Road Flute Band play their instruments instinctively.

Most are self-taught, keeping up a tradition passed to them by their fathers and grand-fathers.

In their footsteps tomorrow, they'll march down the road in the name of the Union.

The parade is meant to be a celebration, marking one hundred years since nearly half a million people in the north of Ireland signed a Covenant pledging to remain part of the United Kingdom by whatever means necessary.

The Ulster Covenant at Belfast City Hall, Ulster, in 1912 Credit: PA Archive

It will be a celebration of the foundation of Northern Ireland and the province's place in the Realm.

And in places, there will be a party atmosphere tomorrow.

There'll be music and dancing and what's billed as family fun in the grounds of Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland, where thousands of Unionists from across Ulster will gather at the end of their parade.

A cultural festival will be staged in the grounds of Stormont Credit: Paul Faith/PA

In the social club, though, the truth is that while they honour the past, there's not much to celebrate in the present.

The young bandsmen feel left behind by the peace process.

While their counterparts in the working-class areas of Catholic Belfast elect Sinn Fein representatives with strong links to the Republican tradition, there is no-one in Stormont, say the bandsmen, who really speaks for them.

And on their economically-deprived streets, the 'peace dividend' is yet to conjure many jobs.

So the anger and frustration felt by many in Belfast's loyalist communities occasionally erupts into unrest, and it perhaps contributed to one Protestant band's misguided decision to play outside a Catholic church in Belfast last month.

Footage of which sparked three nights of rioting.

Police at the scene of the unrest in Belfast last month Credit: ITV News

While the leaders of tomorrow's parade have promised that it will be a peaceful, dignified occasion, there's another worry.

It is that small groups of dissident republicans, angry that the Sinn Fein leadership has 'sold out' by participating in the devolved government, will be in attendance at the flashpoints along the parade route, and may attempt to instigate violent confrontation.

Orange Order bandsmen on the march in Belfast, in July Credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The communities' political leaderships have managed to find compromise - an extraordinary accommodation which allows Unionist and Republican to govern together.

But they govern towns and cities which are still very much divided, and until they resolve the fiendishly difficult issue of the parades, the threat of violent confrontation will hang heavy in the air, every time the bandsmen march down the road.

More on this story