A provocative loyalist band parade in the County Antrim village of Rasharkin passed off peacefully at the weekend.
More than forty ‘kick-the-pope’ flute bands and hundreds of their supporters travelled to the nationalist village for the parade which has become increasingly contentious in recent years.
The Parades Commission had imposed route and time restrictions but the residents’ association was furious that it had not been banned from the village.
Residents were also angry at the commission’s decision to allow all 44 bands to take part, having hoped for a reduction in numbers.
Sinn Fein said the size of the parade is “disproportionate” when Rasharkin is home to less than 1,000 people, a large majority of whom are nationalist.
Tension was very high ahead of the parade. The PSNI had arrived in the village from early in the day and used sniffer dogs to “sweep” the area to avoid a repeat of the hoax bomb alert which held up the parade for three hours last year.
Approximately 150 protesters gathered on Main Street to protest. They blew whistles and waved rattles to try and partly drown out the noise of the bands.
Although in previous years there have been clashes and missiles thrown, there was no such trouble this year.
Following the parade, a local Sinn Fein Assembly member said he had been threatened by one of the bands involved.
North Antrim Assembly Member Daithi McKay has lodged a number of complaints over anti-Catholic comments posted on an internet website.
“A member of the Ballymaconnelly band has been making threatening comments towards me and the Catholic community in general,” he said.
Mr McKay said the posts contained comments such as “kill all taigs” (Catholics) and “scum in Rasharkin”.
“Such comments make it quite clear that the author, in this case a member of the Ballymaconnelly band, is only parading through Rasharkin for sectarian reasons.”