Ballymoney protest parade organisers say their voices ‘will not be ignored’

A band at a parade in Rasharkin last month, one of the marches that had Parades Commission restrictions imposed on it

A band at a parade in Rasharkin last month, one of the marches that had Parades Commission restrictions imposed on it

The group behind a mass loyalist protest parade in Ballymoney later this month has said the voices of the loyal orders and band communities “will not be ignored any longer”.

According to the Protestants Against Injustice Committee (PAIC), the “unprecedented” event will highlight how the Parades Commission is operating “at the whim of Sinn Fein politicians”.

Invitations have been send to hundreds of Orange lodges, bands, Apprentice Boys of Derry clubs and Royal Black Preceptories, in the hope that a powerful protest movement could lead to the demise of the commission.

In a statement released on Friday, PAIC said: “The parade on 24th September will effectively launch our campaign for the PUL (Protestant/unionist/loyalist) community to be afforded basic human rights and treated with equality at a time when quangos and legislation seem pitted against our cultural identity and heritage.

“The parade is a vehicle for like-minded members of the loyal orders/bands community to come together as one to register our increasing frustration at how our rights are being eroded and our cultural heritage is being assaulted, politically and physically.”

The protest group is made up of “a number of like-minded people from the Orange Order, Independent Orange Institution, Apprentice Boys of Derry, Royal Black Institution and bands from the north Antrim and east Londonderry areas,” the statement said.

“Over the last two decades we have witnessed the erosion of fundamental ‘human rights’ of Protestants, their cultural heritage has been determined by the Parades commission, who are used as a mechanism for creating institutionalised discrimination against the PUL community. Parades have been rerouted, banned and interfered with at the whim of republican politicians/’travel to be offended protestors’ who now quite openly brag that they are getting what they want from the Parades Commission.”

The statement adds: “Our goal through peaceful protest is to send out a very clear message to our NI executive – we will not be ignored any longer. We want the unionist politicians within our government to bring about positive change.”

Speaking to the News Letter earlier this week, Orange Order chaplain and assistant grand master Mervyn Gibson said: “Any legal protest against the Parades Commission – about banning it – would have my full support.”

Organisers say the parade will leave North Road, Ballymoney on September 24 at 6.30pm sharp to allow bands travelling to the North Ballymena Protestant Boys Flute Band parade to leave Ballymoney in time to make the journey.

• PAIC has published the following initial aims:

1. To organise a parade to allow our people the opportunity to publicly demonstrate their frustration and disappointment at the Executive’s failure to remove or replace the unaccountable Parades Commission.

2. The launch of a petition, physical and electronic, to demand an end to the ludicrous decisions and determinations of the Parades Commission and it’s seemingly unlimited powers in terms of denting freedom of expression, assembly and basic human rights.

3. The launch of a central fund to enable bands and the Loyal Orders to legally challenge decisions made by the Parades Commission that are undemocratic and unjust.

4. The launch of a campaign to have attacks on Orange halls officially regarded as hate crimes.