Judgement could encourage provocative marches


There are fears of increased parade tensions next summer after a rare conviction against a loyalist ‘kick the pope’ marching band was overturned on appeal.

Thirteen members of the notoriously sectarian Young Conway Volunteers (YCV) band had their convictions for staging a provocative display outside St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Donegall Street three years ago wiped out.

Prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson has now called for loyalist flute bands to be allowed to once again to march freely up and down past the church. Mr Bryson said the commission should now overturn its decision to ban Bangor Protestant Boys from marching past the same church during Apprentice Boys parades this weekend.

“The events in Belfast Court have called into question the integrity of all the so-called parade related charges brought by the PPS and PSNI under the Public Processions Act legislation and indeed also Public order legislation,” he said.

The loyalist is a leading figure in the ‘Bangor Protestant Boys’, which wears UVF-style insignia and has been pictured carrying paramilitary-linked flags.

The band admitted taking a conscious decision to breach a Parades Commission determination by playing music as it passed the church during an Apprentice Boys parade earlier this year.

Bryson refused to voluntarily present himself to the PSNI for questioning last week over the incident and then challenged the police to arrest him.

Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee, who filmed the YCV bandsmen marching in circles outside the church in 2012 while playing sectarian tunes, said he was disappointed by the ruling.

“All marches past St Patrick’s Church should be respectful and we will continue to monitor the behaviour of this band in future to ensure they meet the commitments made today in court,” he said.

But Orangemen expressed delight in the court’s decision.

A County Grand Lodge spokesman said: “We are glad that justice has finally been achieved for these band members who had been wrongly vilified by the media and nationalism. There never was an intent to cause offence.”

Meanwhile, a racist parade by the Protestant Coalition took place in Belfast this morning amid tight security. One banner read: ‘Muslims don’t integrate they want to dominate’

However, fewer than two dozen members turned up and they were greatly outnumbered and drowned out by a samba-playing anti-fascist counter-protest.

The march went ahead despite a last minute legal challenge. On Friday, a Syrian refugee won permission to take legal action against the Parades Commission over its failure to prevent a racist display at Belfast City Hall, but could not prevent the march from going ahead.

The man, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal, said he hoped his legal action had forced the organisers to refrain from using words which could be perceived to be sectarian, provocative, insulting or threatening.

The case will proceed to a full hearing in March next year.


* In the latest racist attack, the house of a Greek woman close to the bottom of the loyalist Shankill Road was doused with oil, but not set alight on Wednesday. The woman, who it is understood had been targeted before, was not at home at the time when the front door and a window were damaged.

Patrick Yu, of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, said it was part of a wider upsurge in attacks “in the wake of the refugee crisis and post-Paris attacks”.

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