Royal Blacks urged to defend flag
Members of the Royal Black Institution in Northern Ireland have been urged to do all they lawfully can to protect their British culture, as they participated in one of the final showpieces of the Protestant loyal order marching season.
Addressing one of six Last Saturday demonstrations held across the region, Sovereign Grand Master of the institution Millar Farr also asked fellow members residing throughout the Commonwealth to support their colleagues in their efforts to resist the on-going "attack" on their identity.
Mr Farr referred to the decision by Belfast City Council late last year to limit the flying of the Union Flag above Belfast City Hall as an example of attempts to deny loyal order members their cultural rights.
The figurehead of the organisation addressed crowds at the demonstration at Ballyronan in Londonderry. There were five other Royal Black parades in Banbridge, Ballymoney, Newtownards, Dungannon and Castlederg.
Around 18,000 members of the institution were estimated to have taken part.
Mr Farr said the institution had members in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Togo and Ghana as well as England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
"All our members, irrespective of where they reside, are law abiding citizens of that particular country," he said.
"Those of us who reside in the United Kingdom regard ourselves as British and are proud to do so.
"We as loyal subjects of Her Majesty cherish the many freedoms which our democracy provides for us. One of these freedoms is the right to identify with the flag of the Nation to which we profess our allegiance.
"The removal of the Union Flag from the City Hall in Belfast and other locations is regarded as an attack on our identity and culture.
"The flag of any country should be treated with dignity and respect and its appearance in public should not be limited or restricted. The adaption of such a policy is viewed by many as an attempt to dilute our identity and deny us the right to show allegiance to this United Kingdom to which we belong.
"Today we publicly state we are British and will do everything possible, in a lawful manner, to ensure we continue to live a peaceful and prosperous life under the Union Flag, and we encourage all our Sir Knights (institution members) and friends within the Commonwealth to support us in our stand."