Rasharkin parade ‘a disgrace’

A spate of serious sectarian attacks followed a contentious parade in the County Antrim village of Rasharkin last weekend.

A total of 41 loyalist bands marched through the mainly nationalist village on Friday evening as a group of protesters gathered.

A highly controversial decision by the Parades Commission to allow the parade had been strongly condemned by Sinn Fein and other republican groups.

Some of those responsible for the recent murder of Catholic father-of-four Kevin McDaid in nearby Coleraine were members of the paramilitary-style bands which marched the length of the predominately nationalist village.

A roar could be heard from the band’s supporters at the far end of the village as the first band passed, with protesters responding by shouting and blowing loud air horns and whistles.

Some of the protesters held placards declaring “residents’ rights are being trampled on” and “UVF/UDA not welcome here”.

At one point in the evening, loyalists attempted to storm into a Catholic estate, and ended up throwing a petrol bomb at the PSNI. One Catholic man was assaulted by members from the band parade, and sectarian tensions remain at a dangerous level in the area.

Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay said: “Before the parade, we warned police that supporters of the parade should not be allowed near Rhencullen Park or Churchfields after residents there were threatened by loyalists last year.

“Unfortunately the police did not hold supporters back and as a direct result a young man was assaulted toward the end of the procession.

“Police also failed to stop loyalists damaging Catholic houses in Churchfields where they even knocked the bricks off the garden walls.

“Such intimidation and violence was bound to happen given the Parades Commission decision and this could have been avoided if the police had followed our advice and kept loyalists out of this area.

“What we saw here was a large-scale attempt to intimidate Catholics in this village and the Parades Commission decision to accommodate this was disgusting.”

He said it was an “absolute disgrace” that UDA and UVF bands, including bands from Coleraine who had members arrested for the murder of Kevin McDaid, were allowed to march through the village.

“This is a sectarian coat-trailing parade and has caused trouble and conflict in this village for many years now. If the Parades Commission cannot see the problems it created here by allowing hundreds of loyalists to come into a nationalist village then they need their heads examined.

“This parade has served only to heighten tensions in the area even further. The fact that the DUP continues to defend the right of loyalist paramilitaries to march through Catholic areas just goes to show that they have yet to sever all their links with these paramilitary organisations.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News