Band unwise to wear a Para crest in Londonderry, says DUP founder
A founding member of the DUP has said the inclusion of the Parachute Regiment's crest on a band uniform during last weekend's Apprentice Boys parade was "very unwise".
The regiment's insignia with the letter 'F' was worn by members of Clyde Valley Flute Band from Larne as they marched through Derry. Police escorted them during the parade and later stopped the band's bus.
The Apprentice Boys said they had no prior knowledge of the band's uniform, but recognised the potential upset it caused.
A Parachute Regiment soldier, 'Soldier F', is to be prosecuted for the murder of two men and the attempted murder of four others on Bloody Sunday.
Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society, said he shared concerns around the "heavy-handed way" the Clyde Valley band was dealt with and recognised the anger over the pursuit of former troops for Troubles-era crimes.
But he said the band's actions were unhelpful. His comments are made in a letter published in today's Belfast Telegraph.
He writes: "The apparent witch-hunt against soldiers who served here has angered and appalled many, but I think the band's inclusion of the parachute regiment's crest/Soldier F on its uniform in Londonderry was, to put it mildly, very unwise.
"I understand that they have worn it at other parades this summer, but bearing in mind the sensitivities surrounding the crest in Londonderry, it would have been prudent to have left it out on Saturday.
"Perception is all important and, whatever the motive of the band, its actions have caused hurt and also given ammunition to those who are opposed to our traditions and heritage.
"It has also detracted from the purpose of Saturday's parade, which was to celebrate the providential relief of the city from the terrible siege."
A bonfire close to the scene of the Bloody Sunday shootings was pictured yesterday festooned with flags and abusive placards about Soldier F.
Parachute Regiment material was placed all over the pyre before it was scheduled to be lit last night in the Bogside estate.
Meanwhile, the son of a man shot dead on Bloody Sunday, has said that there is "much more to be done" to restore good relationships in Derry.
Tony Doherty's father Patrick was among 13 people killed on January 30 1972. Another died later in hospital. Speaking to the BBC on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust, he said the trust had given a "guarded welcome" to the Apprentice Boys' statement.
"In our view there is much more to be done to restore relationships in our shared city. We value relationships and wish to see our city prosper and thrive," he said.
"The events of last Saturday are clearly a setback and we must all play our part in ensuring the full gravity of the situation is acknowledged and understood, that the full facts of how it came about be established, and to receive full assurances that the matter will be dealt with properly allowing for no repeat ever."
Mr Doherty said that the Bloody Sunday Trust are set to meet with police today to discuss the incident, but have yet to hear back on a requested meeting with the Apprentice Boys.
Apprentice Boys governor Graeme Stenhouse told the BBC that the group would be willing to discuss the events of last weekend with any group.
See Letters, page 40