The TUV has attacked the Parades Commission for what it claimed were “double standards” in regulating parades in Kilkeel and Rasharkin.
TUV leader Jim Allister noted that the commission imposed a series of restrictions on the annual Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band parade in Rasharkin – limiting the number of bands and insisting on a single drum beat when passing nationalist protesters.
This sharply contrasted, he said, with the nationalist band ‘Banna Fliuit Naoimh’ which was allowed to parade past Kilkeel’s War Memorial, a memorial to IRA victims, a graveyard in which victims of IRA terrorism are buried and the largest Protestant church in the town, he said.
The Kilkeel band is allowed to play music when passing all but one church on the route, whereas in Rasharkin the band may only play a single drum beat when passing nationalist protestors. “And while the Rasharkin parade is to take place without any undue stoppages the ‘Banana Band’ is permitted to stage a ‘10-minute display’ at the traffic lights in Kilkeel.”
Kilkeel Ukip councillor Henry Reilly said: “Two tricolours were put up for the parade, both outside the Protestant churches. The band wears a paramilitary-style uniform with crossed rifles on their drum. And the 10-minute display in the town was very provocative. The town was under lockdown throughout.”
A spokesman for the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band, said: “We have always kept every determination given to us and yet it seems that the restrictions are getting tighter year after year.”
The parade has been going for 34 years, he said, with 90 per cent of bands involved having taken part from the very start.
“The great majority of people in Rasharkin have no issues with us,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the commission said each case is considered on its own facts. It takes into account parade-related protests and the conduct of participants in previous parades or protests when considering possible restrictions.
“The Commission believes the conditions placed on the parades by Banna Fliuit, Kilkeel and Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band, Rasharkin are fair, just and reasonable,” she said.