Call to ban republican march

THERE are calls to ban a republican parade in Kilkeel this weekend that involves a councillor who refused to condemn a bomb attack on his niece.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Martin Connolly has been criticised by all the main political parties after he would not denounce last Saturday's attack on his PSNI officer relative.

Public feeling has been so strong that the woman's neighbours have organised a public rally in support of her on Saturday morning outside her home in the Co Down fishing town.

Mr Connolly, who is now an independent councillor, is a leading member of the controversial St Patrick's Flute Band, which was cleared to parade through Kilkeel this Sunday some weeks ago, subject to heavy


Several days before the bomb attack the Parades Commission restricted the band's playing of music and the route it wished to take on its return journey "against the background of continuing local community tension" and "the real possibility of damaging community relations".

The commission also cited "the likelihood of public disorder should the

parade proceed along the entirety of its notified route".

Two other nationalist bands celebrating the same Catholic feast in Kilkeel on the same day have never been subjected to any restrictions.

SDLP councillor John McArdle said the commission should reconsider its

permission for the St Patrick's Flute Band parade.

"In context of what happened last week I would say: 'should that not fly in the face of the Parades Commission decision?' Community tensions are already rising in the area."

He said the commission should look at its decision again "to see if it should be banned if it is going to cause problems". DUP MLA Jim Wells said the St Patrick's band "should be excluded from parading on Sunday".

He said Mr Connolly's comments at the weekend were "extremely insensitive" following the attempted murder of his niece and her daughter.

"The Parades Commission has recognised it as an extreme republican band, which is why they have placed restrictions on it," Mr Wells said.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission confirmed that the two other nationalist bands which parade at the same time have no restrictions

placed on them because they voluntarily cooperate with the commission.

He said that the commission would review its decision on the St Patrick's Flute Band if formal complaints were lodged.

Meanwhile, neighbours of the targeted Catholic policewoman have called for a large turn out for the rally at the scene of the attempted murder bid at Fearon Close on the Scrogg Road from 11am to 1pm on Saturday.

The organisers, the Scrogg Road Support Group, described the event as a "peaceful and non-political support rally" and are appealing to people to come and show their support for the young PSNI officer following an "awful ordeal" that was "no fault of her own".

Claire Higgins, who is one of the organisers, said: "We want to show our support for her as friends and neighbours because she has been born and raised in this area. We want to show her that we are all behind her and we hold no grudges for her choice of employment."

Mr Connolly said yesterday that Mr McArdle should limit himself to commenting on Newry matters.

"I am just an ordinary band member and the band is not politically tied to anyone," he added.

"If people ask me do I condone an attack on my niece or condone her getting hurt the answer is no," he said. "But as an Irish republican if people are asking me will I condemn any Irishman or Irishwoman for

doing something to try to end partition in Ireland the answer is no.

"Whether I agree with their tactics to achieve that goal is a matter for me and my own conscience, but I will not condemn any Irishman or Irishwoman for trying to end partition in Ireland."

He said that some of those who had criticised his stance had refused to condemn similar incidents in the past, accusing them of hypocrisy and having short memories.