Rasharkin parade: Unionist anger at ‘apartheid’ ruling

John Finlay slammed the 'weak and cowardly' Parades Commission
John Finlay slammed the 'weak and cowardly' Parades Commission

A decision to place restrictions on a north Antrim band parade has facilitated the “cultural apartheid” of republicans, an Jim Allister has said.

The TUV leader said the Parade Commission’s determination in relation to a band content in Rasharkin on August 22 was “yet another attack upon the minority community in the village”.

Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band had notified the commission of its intention to hold its annual parade involving 44 bands.

However, the commission has ruled that only 25 bands can take part, and that only a single drumbeat can be played as the participants pass protestors positioned between Orangefield Park and a point in Main Street.

There is also a further restriction on the type of flags being carried by the bands’ colour parties. Two separate protests by nationalist residents have been restricted to 50 protestors at each location.

Mr Allister said: “The drum beat imposition is in the vicinity of the notified protests, one of which is by a dissident-allied group, meaning that the very siting of a republican protest is now sufficient to rob marching bands of the right to play music. This is a monstrous innovation and reward for protests which previously have been violent.”

DUP councillor John Finlay said he was outraged at the commission’s decision.

“This latest determination is an affront to the whole principle of civil liberty, and it simply confirms that this new commission, even more than its predecessor, is weak and cowardly and operating to a republican agenda.

“There is a palpable sense of anger within the Protestant and unionist community over this decision, but I urge the bands and the supporters and spectators to maintain their dignity and to exercise their customary restraint on the evening of the parade,” he said.

Two separate residents’ groups have notified the Parades Commission of their intention to protest against the Rasharkin parade.

The commission has restricted the numbers attending both the Rasharkin Residents Association and the Rasharkin Residents Collective protests, and said they must refrain from behaviour which could “reasonably be perceived as intentionally sectarian”.