Sinn Féin seeks funding for Tyrone loyalists
As nationalist residents battled with loyalist marchers and their supporters on Saturday, both the main nationalist parties have been embarrassed by news of compromising stances on the loyal orders and the marching organisations.
It has emerged that Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has lobbied for money for a ‘kick-the-Pope’ loyalist flute band in Castlederg, County Tyrone, as has a fellow Sinn Féin councillor.
The news has stunned the nationalist village, where the Castlederg Young Loyalist Flute Band has taken part in a number of contentious sectarian parades.
The band is linked to a lodge within the anti-Catholic Orange Order, while its repertoire includes songs which glorify UVF killers.
Mr Doherty wrote to the Arts Council backing funding for the band to the tune of five thousands pounds -- which the band itself was unaware of.
He wrote: “I have had quite a bit of interaction with the band and can unequivocally state they have made a huge contribution in helping to resolve community tensions in Castlederg.”
The documentation uncovered by the BBC also revealed a Sinn Féin councillor’s backing for funding for another loyalist band in Tyrone.
Cookstown councillor Ciaran McElhone wrote to the Arts Council last October after Drumnacross flute band was denied funding.
He said he wanted the Arts Council to reconsider, claiming that the band was “uncontroversial among the Nationalist community.”
Separately, the rival nationalist SDLP has been shamed by its failure to oppose a motion at Lisburn council calling for the Orange Order to be granted the freedom of the city.
The SDLP’s failure to turn up for the vote allowed the motion to clear its first hurdle -- but they later issued a statement claiming to oppose the motion “at all stages of council”.
Sinn Féin Lisburn City Councillor David Bell said the statement was “a face saving exercise”.
“This is a lazy way to conduct politics and in no way passes for real representation,” he said.
“Once again the SDLP have abdicated their duties on this council with Sinn Féin being the sole voice for nationalists in Lisburn.”