Irish Republican News · June 4, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Band parades provoke anger

Participants in a unionist band parade engaged in threatening and provocative behaviour in the small Suffolk estate in west Belfast on Saturday.

Senior unionist paramilitary figures attended the Black’s Road march that saw upwards of 40 bands and several thousand supporters bussed into Suffolk through surrounding nationalist areas.

Paramilitary flags were carried by several bands in contravention of a Parades Commission determination.

Nationalist residents are to complain to the Parades Commission after he Upper Falls Protestant Boys flute band again breached the commission’s rulings in defiance of an agreement reached through recent mediation.

Observers from the Parades Commission monitored the march.

Stephen Magennis of the area’s Safer Neighbourhood Project said he was relieved there had been no major violence but that some issues needed to be dealt with.

“While nationalist residents abided by their part of the agreement there were some sections of loyalist supporters who did not,” he said.

“Residents were verbally abused by some band members who made threatening gestures as they were arriving.

“Paramilitary flags were also on view and that has caused anger among residents who see such displays as blatantly provocative.

“We have no control over the fact that this parade takes place each year. What we can do is work to try and make sure it passes off without incident.”

Elsewhere, another controversial band parade Ballymena passed off peacefully in Ballymena at the weekend but PSNI police were accused of heavy handedness.

Up to 40 bands took part in the march through the County Antrim town on Saturday night, accompanied by approximately 100 supporters.

The area of contention was Chapel Roundabout, close to All Saints Catholic Church, which was closed off by PSNI police hours before the first bands turned up.

This meant that a large crowd of people leaving 7.30pm Mass were not allowed to walk the short distance to their homes.

Sinn Féin representative Padraig McShane described this as “bad policing” and said officers showed “a lack of common sense”.

“A lady in a wheelchair couldn’t get to her house and had to be taken a longer route and a Slovakian girl who was sick and obviously distressed was not allowed through and was made to walk the long way round,” he said.

Mr McShane also pointed out that a number of bands broke the Parades Commission determination which ruled they could only play a single drumbeat from a point on Market Road 130 metres before the church until they reached a pedestrian crossing 50 metres away.

“Bands started playing The Sash before this and there were paramilitary flags flown,” he said.

“This is a clear breach of the determination and I will expect police to follow through with that and carry out prosecutions as is necessary.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News