A LOYALIST flute band has insisted that it did not intend to ask a Sinn Fein MP to lobby on its behalf.
On Thursday, the BBC revealed that West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty had written to a government agency asking that it approve funding of £5,000 for Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band.
Mr Doherty confirmed the extraordinary claim, stating: “I am not naïve but this application for new instruments was worth endorsing.”
The website of the band contains the lyrics of a loyalist song glorifying UVF murderer Brian Robinson.
In a statement, the band claimed that the media had “sensationalised” the story of how Mr Doherty came to lobby on their behalf.
It claimed that the band were “victims” of a “media campaign”.
And, despite no doubt being cast on the authenticity of Mr Doherty’s letter to the Arts Council on behalf of the band, it claimed that “attempts have been made to create a link between Pat Doherty of Sinn Fein and the band by virtue that he allegedly supported a failed grant applicant”.
The statement said: “Castlederg Young Loyalists would like to make it totally clear that at no time did they seek the endorsement or help of Doherty or Sinn Fein.
“The band had enlisted the help of a local community group to assist with the funding application, and unknown to the band that group had sent general communications to a wide range of figures and bodies, which included Doherty.
“It is to the band’s immense surprise, in fact shock, that an endorsement was made from that individual.”
The band added that it was “a totally unashamed loyalist flute band” and said that four of its members had been murdered by the IRA.
It added: “The band harbours nothing but contempt for Irish republicanism and its attacks on their community.
“We do not thank Doherty for the endorsement. The band is a legitimate part of the local community, is proud of its heritage and culture, and believes itself to be fully deserving in its own right of any grant award we receive.
“We have never compromised our principles on grant forms, on the streets of Ulster, or anywhere else.”
Although the application which Mr Doherty supported was turned down, the band has recently been awarded a £4,800 grant by the Arts Council as it “signed up to community relations criteria”.