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St Patrick's day protest: Orange Order urged to ban flute band honouring loyalist Clarke linked to triple murder

By Claire Williamson

Calls have been made for the Orange Order to ban a flute band, honouring a loyalist linked to a triple sectarian murder, marching in a St Patrick's Day counter parade.

The Irish News reports the inclusion of the Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band in the Lisburn parade has been branded an "insult to victims".

According to a letter to the band from the lodge, the march is organised as counter to the traditional St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Organisers say they want to highlight that St Patrick was "not Irish, but a British saint, born and bred”.

Noel Clarke was jailed for five years for his link to the murders of three young people in a mobile shop in Drumbeg.

Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (17) and Brian Frizzell were shot on March 28, 1991.

Clarke originally faced three murder charges but was acquitted of involvement and was later charged with hijacking a van used by the killers. He maintained he didn't know what the van would be used for after it was handed over.

Clarke was found dead at his Lisburn home in 2012.

SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney said the inclusion of the band was an "insult to victims".

He said: “We must all work to ensure there is a space for respectful celebration of culture and tradition, not only in Lisburn, but across Northern Ireland.

“There is a positive accommodation to be struck between people of a unionist background, a nationalist background and others. But a band named after someone associated with the sectarian murder of three people, two of them teenagers, flies in the face of the shared community that we’re working hard to build."

He added: "I am calling on the organisers of this parade to urgently reconsider involving this band. I am hopeful that this can be resolved locally with respect for everyone in our community.”

Secretary of the Bateson's True Blue Lodge John Millar told the Irish News that raising Clarke's past had "no real relevance".

He told the Irish News:  “Everybody is welcome to attend this event, which is about bringing people together.

“There are parades that take place honouring IRA members, so it would be hypocritical to say anything about this parade. There were terrorists on both sides.”

The Orange Order in a statement said it's a matter for local lodges.

A spokesman said: "The engagement of bands is a matter for local lodges and as such we were unaware of the decision of the organisers to engage this particular band.”

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