Protest over sectarian parade in Rasharkin

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Two nationalist residents groups held protests against a coat-trailing loyalist march through the mainly nationalist village of Rasharkin on Friday night, August 18.

Much of the town and its access roads were closed off by a major policing operation to allow the sectarian parade to take place.

Rasharkin Residents’ Collective and Rasharkin Residents’ Association held separate protests in heavy rain along the village’s Main Street as the parade passed through.

The controversial ‘Dervock Young Defenders’ were among the bands to take part in the march, which was organised by the ‘Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors’. Members of the same band, some wearing face masks, engaged in open provocation of nationalists at a parade in nearby Ballycastle last year.

North Antrim Sinn Fein Assembly member Philip McGuigan, who met the Parades Commission, said the march has been “beset by tensions in previous years given the behaviour of band members”.

The Rasharkin Residents Collective, had urged the parade to be rerouted this year to avoid the main street of the village.

“We believe this is the most socially responsible option that the Parades Commission could take,” said RRC spokesperson Sean Hanna.

As a last-minute efforts by his group to secure a review of the Parades Commission determined failed, Mr Hanna said in a Facebook post that the campaign against the “Ballymaconnelly hatred parade” would continue.

“We organised and fund this through a small group of activists while so-called community leaders hide behind their curtains,” he said.

“Businesses’ will be closed down, people who are ill will be denied health visits, and children will be intimidated in their own homes, all aided by a massive military blockade by the PSNI.

“Where is the island of equals for the people of Rasharkin in 2017?”

Meanwhile, the main Apprentice Boys parade of the year took place uneventfully in Derry. More than 140 loyalist bands took part in a march around the mainly nationalist city to celebrate a Protestant battle victory in 1689.

As the parade took place, republicans organised a protest to highlight the plight of Lurgan prisoner, Luke O’Neill, who is being held on a criminal wing of Maghaberry prison. Both events took place and dispersed without incident.

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