Irish Republican News · August 3, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ballymena parade to go ahead

The organisers of a republican parade planned for Ballymena next week have dismissed an appeal by Sinn Féin to call it off.

North Antrim Sinn Féin representative Philip McGuigan appealed to “The Friends of William Orr” to cancel a parade planned for the mainly nationalist north end of the County Antrim town on August 9 to mark the 34th anniversary of the introduction of internment.

However, the group last night rejected the call.

The Parades Commission has restricted the route of the unusual parade -- of four bands and supporters - to the nationalist Fisherwick estate.

Billed as the first Irish Republican parade in Ballymena since the gathering of the United Irish men and women in 1798, it aims “to remove bonfire culture” in the area. Trouble flared in the same estate last year after a nationalist bonfire to mark the anniversary of internment.

Unionists reacted with fury earlier this month when it emerged that republicans planned to hold the first ever nationalist parade in the town.

Mr McGuigan said parade organisers should take the “moral high ground.”

“Sinn Féin are not responsible in any way for organising this proposed parade. That said, we recognise the essential right for nationalists and republicans to be able to express their culture openly in their own town. We also recognise that the route applied for is through the nationalist north end of Ballymena.

“We also recognise that the increased tension in Ballymena has been caused not by any proposed parade but by the bigotry and sectarianism of a section of violent unionism. This has not been helped by quite deliberate comments made by senior unionist politicians in an attempt to stoke up more trouble. There can be no excuses for the sectarian attacks on churches nor for the threat of violence. The Parades Commission when making its determination quite obviously capitulated under the threat of this unionist violence.”

The Sinn Féin man said there was no support for the parade in Ballymena.

“Our criteria for this parade is the same as it is for any loyal order or loyalist band parade, meaning that it must have the support and approval of the host community. Over the past week Sinn Féin members have carried out extensive consultation with the local community.

“As a result of this it is our view that in the interests of the nationalist and republican population of the north end of the town that the parade be called off. I am appealing to the parade organisers to take the magnanimous and responsible decision to do so.”

A spokesman for the Friends of William Orr, Paddy Murray, dismissed the Sinn Féin call.

“Young nationalists in Ballymena have organised this parade themselves. We are all working towards ending the bonfire culture and we asked them what would they like as an alternative and they came up with the suggestion of a band parade. We have sat down with the SDLP and even worked out an alternative route with them in a bid to reach a compromise. Sinn Féin refused to sit with us because this is perceived to be a dissident parade and they say they don’t talk to dissidents.

“I am glad that they are now saying they don’t want this parade because they never wanted it. Unless they organise it they don’t believe there should be a parade. But there are republicans other than Sinn Féin out there and they have been working for the kids of the area and will continue to do so. You can be sure that in the future Sinn Féin will organise a parade in Ballymena.

“Nationalists have a right to march in Ballymena and we hoped that everyone could be involved in that but Sinn Féin have warned four bands we invited to take part that if they do they will never be allowed to take part in a republican parade in the 32 counties again. This will be a peaceful parade and we only want those with peaceful intentions to come along,” said Mr Murray.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News