A UUP MLA has condemned the actions of a group of republicans who forced a British Legion band to abandon a fundraising concert in the Republic of Ireland.
Gardai were called to defuse a heated situation in Knocklong, Co Limerick, where the British Legion Leiston Band, hailing from the small town of Leiston in East Suffolk, had been invited to perform a brass concert.
The event aimed to commemorate the Knocklong men killed in the First World War, with proceeds going towards a children’s playground.
But organisers were forced to cancel the concert after a group calling themselves Anti Imperialist Action Ireland mounted a protest outside the village’s community centre.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the group said: “Brit imperialists have been forced back on their bus and left the area with their tails between their legs.
“Tonight’s great victory in Knocklong shows that Brit imperialists should be confronted wherever they appear in Ireland.”
It is understood the band members were aged between 14 and 77.
East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart, a member of the Army Reserve, branded those behind the protest “nothing but pathetic, intolerant bigots and bully boys”.
He added: “The protestors really need to learn some history. Some 300,000 Irishmen served during the Great War, and 50,000 lost their lives. At least 1,000 of these were from Limerick, which has an active Royal British Legion Branch.”
Mr Stewart also challenged Sinn Fein to condemn this protest and to explain the comments made by Limerick TD Maurice Quinlivan, who said: “I think it is a bit strange somebody invited them and didn’t expect any sort of reaction to it. I am not saying that I condemn or support it, but it would be controversial to invite the British Legion band to come to a rural village, where there was a huge armed resistance during the British occupation at the time.”
Mr Stewart added: “Clearly the words ‘respect’ and ‘equality’ are merely empty election slogans to Sinn Fein. This is the type of Ireland Sinn Fein envisage, one in which any manifestation of Britishness is to be curtailed and the only history permitted to be remembered is a version of which they approve.”