Unionists have slammed a Parades Commission ruling that is to prevent a flute band from taking part in an annual parade in Rasharkin this Friday night.
The Dervock Young Defenders Flute Band are banned from the Co Antrim event following what the Parades Commission have said was ‘rowdy and antagonistic behaviour’ on July 12.
Members of the band were involved in an incident on the Twelfth in Ballycastle with republican councillor Padraig McShane.
Jim Allister, MLA for North Antrim, pointed out that Mr McShane had been arrested that day, and not members of the band.
“I am appalled that the Parades Commission have banned Dervock Young Defenders Flute Band from taking part in the annual parade in Rasharkin this Friday night. “Parade organisers had gone to considerable lengths including reducing the number of bands taking part and bringing forward the time at which the parade would end.”
He added: “It is important to remember that it was a republican councillor, Padraig McShane, who was arrested as a result of his behaviour while the band passed on the Twelfth, not members of the band...
“This is a gratuitously provocative action by a commission which seems determined to stir up controversy in an area where the tensions around a parade had decreased in recent years.”
Ballymoney DUP Councillor, John Finlay, accused the Parades Commission of panding to a “republican agenda”.
He said: “In recent years, I have been very critical of the Parades Commission’s determinations in relation to the annual Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band parade in Rasharkin. The Commission seems to make its decisions based largely on republican complaints and threats, and this year is no different. However, matters have been made even worse this year by the bizarre decision to ban Dervock Young Defenders Flute Band from taking part.
“Not surprisingly, Sinn Fein MLA for North Antrim, Daithi McKay, has welcomed this latest attack on our Protestant and Unionist heritage. He has the audacity to state that the Dervock band is being excluded in response to representations from the local residents group and himself about the band’s alleged behaviour at and this year’s Twelfth of July in Ballycastle.
“Anyone can make sweeping allegations but, to the best of my knowledge, the Dervock band has not been found guilty of any misbehaviour or inappropriate behaviour. Indeed, I would assert that the band has been a victim of republican propaganda. The Parades Commission decision bears all the hallmarks of yet further pandering to the republican agenda, and I will be writing to the Commission to challenge its disgraceful decision and to ask for an explanation. It is simply unacceptable to exclude a band from a parade without presenting hard evidence for the reasons.”