YouTube controversy: We are non-sectarian, why snub us like this?

The Robert Graham Memorial Flute Band, one of those whose videos was removed by YouTube on Friday night
The Robert Graham Memorial Flute Band, one of those whose videos was removed by YouTube on Friday night

A member of a loyalist flute band has stressed the non-sectarian credentials of his musical outfit, amid the controversy about the removal of parade videos from YouTube.

Footage of Ben Blair’s band on parade was among the thousands of videos blocked by the video-sharing company when it took a number of its accounts promoting loyalist marches offline.

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Mr Blair, 28 and based in Bangor, is a flute player with the Robert Graham Memorial Flute Band (which is named after a Crawfordsburn Orangeman who founded the group).

He has been a member of the band for four years, and told the News Letter: “The band is multi-cultural, playing in not only loyalist competitions and Orange celebrations, but also playing fleadhs and town halls across the country.

“The band also just recently played for a nursing home as part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations as entertainment.”

He said they play traditional Irish songs, reels and jigs, and do not have any involvement in any kind of “bigoted, sectarian music”.

Much of the band’s energy is devoted to simply teaching youngsters to learn an instrument, he added.

On the subject of the YouTube controversy in general, his personal viewpoint is this: “You can’t change tradition.You can’t snub out culture. We all have different beliefs.

“If you are going to take something down from one side of the community, you need to take something down from the other side of the community, because there’s republican flute bands who are still being shown on YouTube – and they are walking with maybe paramilitary colour parties.

“Then there’s the innocent bands like ourselves, who have no paramilitary association to us, nobody ever walking round us, the band’s never in trouble with the police or the Parades Commission – and we’re the band that’s getting snubbed on YouTube.”