A loyalist band at the centre of the row over a display of sectarianism outside a Catholic church on the Twelfth has struck a new note — of apology.
The flute band yesterday said “sorry” for any offence and admitted that the associations of a tune played during the incident were “perhaps unfortunate”.
But the Young Conway Volunteers (YCV) band also insisted the location was unintentional — and “many members” did not realise they were outside St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Belfast’s Donegall Street at the time.
The band has been criticised after members were recorded walking round in circles and playing music outside the chapel.
The band, from the Shankill Road area of the city, went public as it was confirmed the Parades Commission intends to investigate the incident, which led to a bitter exchange between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
In a lengthy statement, a band spokesman said if the band “may have given offence in this instance, we would certainly apologise to those in authority or engagement, for any act that perceivably may have brought discredit on the colours which we wear, or the historic YCV title which we proudly bear”.
In the statement he insisted the band was not playing a sectarian song, but was instead playing the Beach Boys’ Sloop John B, which is a re-working of a 1920s West Indies folk tune called John B Sails.
In relation to reports that they were performing the anti-Irish ‘Famine Song’ — which uses the same tune but replaces the lyrics “I feel so broke up, I wanna go home” with “The famine is over, why don't you go home?” — the spokesman added: “I can assure you that any singing was coming from supporters and not the band itself. The singing of words that some supporters associated with the tune the band was playing at the time was perhaps unfortunate, and may just have been a by-product of the exuberance of the day of celebration of our culture and history.”
Criticising the media portrayal of the display — which took place while the Belfast demonstration was at a standstill due to a short wreath-laying ceremony at the City Hall cenotaph — the spokesman said it was “pure chance” that the band came to a halt outside the closed doors of St Patrick’s.
Referring to footage of the person recording the incident being confronted by band members, the spokesman said some members had taken exception to being filmed.
He also claimed the band was subjected to “foul, sectarian and bigoted abuse” in a stretch of its route before St Patrick’s.
DUP Minister Nelson McCausland wrote on his personal blog: “It can be argued that the band was naive or thoughtless or unwise, but this whole affair has been exploited by Sinn Fein.”
Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey (left) said: “Not only did the band play sectarian tunes outside the church and behave in a provocative manner, but they attempted to assault the person recording their behaviour.”
Belfast County Grand Lodge has said it will review the circumstances of a band performing a ‘circle dance’ outside a Catholic church on the Twelfth. The incident at St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street during the main Belfast parade has provoked a bitter political row between the DUP and Sinn Fein after the flute band was seen playing songs perceived to be sectarian.