‘Dissidents’ march in Ballymena
‘Dissidents’ march in Ballymena

A parade by republican hardliners passed off peacefully in Ballymena last night with its organisers vowing to continue with the annual event until restrictions on it are lifted.

About a hundred supporters gathered in the staunchly republican Fisherwick estate for a parade which was only permitted to march a few metres.

They watched as the eight-member colour party of a band from Antrim town marched up to the police line where a speech was made by organiser Paddy Murray.

A Parades Commission determination ruled that the band could not play music nor leave Fisherwick Crescent and Mr Murray said until these restrictions were lifted the march would take place every year.

“ If we had got a proper parade it would have been the last one. If we had got the same conditions this year as last year this would have been the last one,” he said.

Mr Murray said the parade, which was the second in the predominately unionist County Antrim town, had proven that it had community support.

“There were 100 people from this area who came despite the conditions we had to go through to get here. What other parade would the police stop you, take all your details and video you coming in?”

A heavy presence of British forces was also visible last night with water cannon on standby.

The William Orr band which attended the march is a flute band from Rathenraw estate in Antrim and played at last year’s parade.

William Orr was a Presbyterian United Irishman who was hung in Carrickfergus in 1797.

The DUP’s Wesley Wilkinson described the parade as “pathetic” and praised Protestant community leaders who had organised events yesterday “to ensure young people are not brought out on to the street and brought into violence”.

Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said the march had been “almost farcical in nature”.

“It’s totally unfair on the residents of Fisherwick estate,” he added.

He said everyone had the right to express political views but must do so with “respect for the rights of others”.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News