Belfast Telegraph

Complaint by SF councillor hits a sour note with loyalist band

By Staff Reporter

A south Armagh loyalist band has hit back after a Sinn Fein councillor complained to the Parades Commission about its choice of music.

Newry, Mourne and Down Sinn Fein Councillor Charlie Casey filed a complaint with the Parades Commission on Friday following a Royal Black Preceptory parade in the streets of Newry by the Markethill Protestant Boys Flute Band on July 13.

The councillor alleges the band played "several blatantly sectarian songs" during the early morning parade.

"The playing of unnecessary sectarian and blatantly triumphalist songs in Newry's streets flies in the face of the tolerance and mutual respect which runs through our shared community," Councillor Casey said in a statement.

"Not only does The Famine Song constitute a flagrant disregard for the respectful conduct required by the Parades Commission, but behaviour of this kind threatens to undo the good will and progress made through dialogue and engagement in recent years," he added.

But last night Markethill Protestant Boys Flute Band rejected the Sinn Fein representative's allegations, saying that the band does not play 'songs' at all - only music.

"At the core of the councillor's claim is the obviously false declaration that the band plays 'songs', inflammatory or otherwise," the band stated.

"Markethill Protestant Boys, and indeed every other band within the massive Ulster marching band movement, do not play 'songs'.

"Our band and all others play music. Our band does not sing, nor do we have any sort of accompaniment who sing.

"We play musical scores which come from a vast and diverse range of sources.

"Our current repertoire includes classical music, Scottish jigs and reels, and television and film themes, alongside what most regard as being traditional Irish airs."

The band suggested that Mr Casey's allegations "can only be interpreted as nothing less than politicking and an attempt to raise tensions in the area".

The band also said it is consulting its legal advisers about his claims.

Last night, the Markethill musicians received support from former Stormont Minister and MLA Danny Kennedy, who is himself a bandsman with the Tullyvallen Silver Band.

"Charlie Casey is just playing politics.

"He should catch himself on," the former MLA said.

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