Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Tensions run high after parade

Stand-off: Loyalist bandsmen and villagers in Rasharkin last night

Police are investigating after an Orange hall in Rasharkin was attacked following a contentious band parade in the area.

Tensions were high in the mainly nationalist village over the weekend and throughout last week over a loyalist band parade on Friday night.

Minor trouble flared at the event, as nationalist protesters held a demonstration against the parade.

The Orange hall in the centre of the village had been daubed with sectarian graffiti last week.

Police said that a petrol bomb was thrown at the hall sometime between 9pm on Friday and 2am the following morning when a passing police patrol saw scorch damage had been caused to the front of the building.

This was the fourth attack on the hall within a fortnight.

Riot police were deployed to the village after petrol bombs were thrown following the parade.

There was a heavy police presence throughout the march, with several dozen police Land Rovers and high numbers of tactical support unit officers visible.

Bottles and other items were thrown at the parade as it passed the protesters, who lined the streets holding placards calling for an end to sectarian marches.

SDLP MLA Declan O'Loan said that the behaviour at the protest was not representative of the nationalist community.

He said: “I was horrified to see the expressions of pure hatred on the faces of some of the protesters.

“This is not the authentic voice of the nationalist community of Rasharkin and elsewhere.”

Ulster Unionist parades spokesman Michael Copeland described Friday night’s events as a “close run thing”.

“Almost a dozen band members were injured by golf balls,” he claimed.

“Other missiles were thrown by so-called republican protesters while the PSNI stood back and ‘gathered evidence’.”

Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay, who lives in the village, claimed that Catholic houses were attacked by parade supporters.

“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,” he said.

The Parades Commission had appealed for calm ahead of the parade and had ruled that no paramilitary displays or emblems were to be included in the march.

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