Sinn Fein condemns flute band death threats ... after prompting from News Letter

St Patrick's Chapel on Donegall Street, Belfast, the church that was at the centre of the court case
St Patrick's Chapel on Donegall Street, Belfast, the church that was at the centre of the court case

Sinn Fein has condemned death threats issued against members of a flute band cleared on appeal of “playing provocatively” outside a Catholic church – after being prompted by the News Letter.

A Sinn Fein spokesman spoke out against the threats after the News Letter asked whether any Sinn Fein representatives had condemned the ongoing threat and whether they would be prepared to do so.

Then a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Any such death threat is wrong and should be removed immediately.”

Earlier this week 13 members of the Shankill Road-based Young Conway Volunteers Flute Band successfully appealed convictions over an incident in Belfast’s Donegall Street on July 12, 2012.

However, on Wednesday police called with 17 members of the band – two of them juveniles – and handed them written warnings.

Band spokesman Paul Shaw said all 13 members cleared of playing sectarian music have been threatened, as well as four others who were previously cleared of breaching a Parades Commission determination.

Mr Shaw, who said he and his son both received the warning cards from police, which he claimed were from “criminal elements”, told the News Letter: “So far one family have moved out of the Shankill and other band members are living with other family members out of the Shankill area.

“But the biggest thing for us at the minute is that Sinn Fein are not responding to what has happened.

“We have asked them publicly on Twitter to condemn the threats after we were all acquitted of the case, and there has been nothing.

“Surely they should come out and say I condemn these threats, especially on the kids.”

Mr Shaw added that as he is “captain of the band” he has “parents at my door asking what is going to happen to my son and it is a really difficult situation”.

He said at the time of the incident “the playing of the tune was not malicious in any shape, form or fashion”.

“In fact I am penning a letter to the priest to say there are no victors in this,” he said.

“At the end of the day we are just glad it is over and done with, but we are trying to move on and again we can’t because we have been threatened.”

TUV councillor on Belfast City Council, Jolene Bunting, who knows many of the band members, said: “Many of the band are still frightened after getting the death threats, but they are trying to get on with things.

“I call for the threat to be lifted.”