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Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis: Loyalist bands group chief strikes a controversial note

By Donna Deeney

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has called for parading disputes in Belfast to be resolved in the same way as Londonderry.

He was speaking as a loyalist bands group made history when three of its members addressed a fringe meeting at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis on Saturday.

Prominent Sinn Fein figures, including Mr Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, were in attendance as the Londonderry Bands Forum made a presentation.

Forum co-ordinator Derek Moore had faced a barrage of criticism for agreeing to attend the Sinn Fein event and there were warnings that there could be an exodus of bands.

But Mr Moore responded: "There have been comments made by some that we are being used by Sinn Fein, we accept that.

"We are here to use Sinn Fein and would use any other political party if it helped dispel the myths and misconceptions about what it is to be a member of a band."

Mr Moore spoke at length about the core issues for the Londonderry Bands Forum - the educational underachievement of young Protestant males, dispelling stereotypical conceptions of loyalist bands and building relationships based on respectful inclusion and equality.

Former MEP Bairbre de Brun said that she had great difficulty reconciling what Mr Moore was saying and "bands standing outside churches playing provocative songs". Another member of the audience from Belfast wondered why the same level of engagement wasn't happening in the city.

In his keynote address, Mr Adams called for parading disputes in Belfast to be resolved along the lines of how they have been in Derry.

"The accommodation on loyal order parades here stands out as an example of what can be achieved when citizens have the will to solve problems," he added.

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