Open letter to Mr Peter Osborne, Parades Commission:
I wrote to the commission on Tuesday, August 13 and urged it to ensure that the annual band parade hosted by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band in Rasharkin on Friday, August 23 would not be subject to the sort of disgraceful restrictions placed upon it last year. I reminded the commission that the Ballymaconnelly band is a dignified and well-respected band in the Rasharkin area, and that its annual parade is one of the highlights of the Ulster bands calendar and eagerly anticipated by many people.
However, the commission has decided once again to appease republicans and to pander to the demands and threats of a small militant and unrepresentative republican group. The decision to restrict the parade, both in terms of numbers of bands and the duration of the event, is mean-spirited and fundamentally flawed, and it will do nothing to promote good community relations.
One of the groups which has said it intends to protest is Rasharkin Residents Collective. The fact that this group called off a parade in Rasharkin planned for last Friday is illustrative of its insignificance and unpredictability, and yet your commission imposes a series of outrageous conditions on the Ballymaconnelly parade. Once again, the bully-boys have won. As you know, I believe that your commission is a totally inept, partisan and discredited quango which has now become a key part of the problem. I will be publicly calling yet again for its immediate abolition and replacement. Only when that happens can we expect fair decisions in relation to parades.