AN Ulster Unionist Assembly member has said republicans remain intent on “obliterating” Protestant residents from Rasharkin.
North Antrim MLA Robin Swann made the claim in the wake of Friday night’s contentious parade through the village that passed off peacefully.
In his statement, Mr Swann praised the Ballymaconnelly Band for the march which was subject to a Parades Commission decision to restrict the number of bands taking part.
“While I am pleased to see the traditional band parade passed off peacefully and republicans did not try to again use violence to again further their political ends, I am very disappointed by the childish attitude of nationalist residents, some of whom seem determined to obliterate the Protestant culture from Rasharkin,” he said.
“Also, the court’s decision to uphold the Parades Commission’s ruling to limit the parade to the irrational number of 25 bands was a further attack on the marching band tradition, and a blow for the members of Ballymaconnelly Band in particular. Once again, in spite of organising a very professional and well disciplined traditional parade, Ballymaconnelly Band has been rewarded for its sterling attitude with a kick in the face from both the Parades Commission and Rasharkin republicans.”
He added: “The minority Protestant and unionist community in Rasharkin has been on the receiving end of a sustained attempt to remove them from the village.
“For years, violent republicans indulged in a naked sectarian campaign of ethnic cleansing against border Protestants. Now we wonder if republicans have now embarked on a similar sectarian campaign of cultural cleansing?
“One wonders at the commitment of local republicans to share the future when they are unwilling to share the present. When Daithi McKay from Sinn Fein responded to my assertion ‘that the minority Protestant community is being intimidated out of the village’ by saying that ‘there were difficulties and he condemned attacks on both Protestant and Catholic homes’ goes to show that Sinn Fein are unable to deny that the minority Protestant community of Rasharkin are being intimidated on an ongoing and co-ordinated basis.”
The Ballymaconnelly Band and local residents were praised by a senior police officer for ensuring a peaceful march.
Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: “We would like to thank the parade organisers and local residents for their role in ensuring the parade this evening passed off without any major incident. Police welcome the ongoing engagement with local stakeholders to ensure challenges around parading in Rasharkin are addressed.
“This was a large and complex policing operation, which officers delivered in a personal, proportionate and professional manner. I would like to thank my officers for their efforts in enabling the event to pass off peacefully.
“Four arrests were made during the policing operation ranging from assault on police to public order offences, however this comprised a tiny minority of those in attendance.”