The GAA has been urged to ensure there are no ‘paramilitary trappings’ at a St Patrick’s Day parade in Lurgan, where a band named after an IRA volunteer is to play.
The Julie Dougan Flute Band will take part in the St Patrick’s Day event organised by St Peter’s GAA club in the Co Armagh town, according to a notice on the Parades Commission website.
The band are named after ‘Volunteer Julie Dougan’, a woman described in a memorial notice published by the republican newspaper An Phoblacht as a member of Cumman Na mBán, the Provisional IRA’s women’s unit. The notice describes Julie Dougan as having died while “on active service” on July 8, 1972.
An emblem on the Julie Dougan Flute Band’s Facebook page shows a crest flanked by mirrored silhouette images of men wearing dark sunglasses, berets and wielding assault rifles.
DUP MLA Carla Lockhart and MP David Simpson have expressed concern about the forthcoming parade and any “glorification of paramilitarism”.
Ms Lockhart said: “The St Patrick’s Day parade in Lurgan organised by the GAA should be a family-orientated day with no links to paramilitary trappings, symbols or memorials of paramilitaries.
“The GAA promotes itself as an inclusive organisation and should adhere to that, particularly when organising an event of this nature.
“The message should be clear from all sections of our community that paramilitarism should not be glorified or promoted in any way.
“Having represented Lurgan for over 10 years, this damages the good relations work that has and continues to take place in the town. I am outraged that a St Patrick’s Day parade is tarnished with such trappings.”
Mr Simpson added: “I am saddened to learn that a band who remembers an IRA member is allowed to take part in a parade which should be open for the entire community.
“However, I have been liaising with the police on this matter.
“They have given assurances that there will be no paramilitary emblems on display.
“They also made clear that robust action will be taken if there is a breach of the terms and conditions of the Parades Commission or if there is any antisocial behaviour on Friday.
“Allowing the community to come together is important and it is vital that the real reason why St Patrick’s Day is celebrated is recognised.”
The News Letter made repeated attempts to contact St Peter’s GAA club yesterday to allow them the opportunity to respond to some of the concerns raised by Ms Lockhart and Mr Simpson, but were unable to do so.
A spokesperson for the GAA’s Ulster Council did, however, give a brief response to some of the concerns raised by the DUP representatives.
“The GAA are a non-political organisation,” the spokesperson said. “We are a sporting organisation, open to all, and we don’t get involved in politics.”