Warning bands will exit forum over address to Sinn Fein ard fheis

The East Bank Protestant Boys Flute Band
The East Bank Protestant Boys Flute Band

There will be an exodus of bands out of the Londonderry Bands Forum (LBF) if co-ordinator Derek Moore attends the Sinn Fein annual conference in the city this weekend, it has been claimed.

Mr Moore has faced a barrage of criticism over his unprecedented decision to address a fringe event at the ard fheis.

He has defended his position, saying he was saddened and angered by the scale of the “abuse” – and rejected claims that his presence was being used to gain votes for Sinn Fein.

However, a bandsman from the city got in touch yesterday to claim the East Bank Protestant Boys had decided to leave the forum over the issue, and predicted there will be “major consequences” with other bands leaving the forum too in coming weeks.

Mr Moore said he would be airing his concerns about the number of young Protestant men leaving school with decent qualifications, and having “a frank and open debate centred around our young people who need as much help as we can give them”.

Mr Moore is not the only non-republican speaker to attend the event.

Last night co-founder of the Four Corners Festival, the Rev Steve Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in south Belfast, spoke to Sinn Fein delegates on the issue of reconciliation. He was addressing the event jointly with Father Martin Magill of the Sacred Heart Parish in north Belfast.

The Four Corners organisers attracted controversy when they invited Brighton bomber Pat Magee to speak at a cross-community event in east Belfast last January.

In a joint statement, the two clergymen said they were both “surprised” to be invited to speak at this year’s ard fheis.

“Through different events, we try to inspire and entice people out of their particular ‘corners’ of the city into new places where we hope they will encounter new perspectives and new ideas and begin a journey of transformation,” they said.