Belfast Telegraph

Donnelly warns of protests over Derry parades and calls for Soldier F flute band to be banned

Police surrounded the Clyde Valley Flute Band during the parade.
Police surrounded the Clyde Valley Flute Band during the parade.

By Eimear McGovern

A commentator has asked how political unionism would react if republicans staged a protest march on the same scale as one of the marches that currently take place annually in Northern Ireland.

Chris Donnelly said there could 'very well' be a protest against the next unionist march set to take place in Londonderry.

"There's due to be a parade soon, there could be a protest. What happens if people sit in the middle of the road? Do you really think the PSNI are going to go in and lift two or three hundred people off the walls of Derry? Down the road, the protest could get bigger.

"It would be a disaster, but it could very well happen," he said, speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme.

"This band can never march again through Derry. The Apprentice Boys need to take ownership and say anybody who has that agenda, you're not welcome," he said.

The Apprentice Boys said on Tuesday it recognised that a band’s display of a Parachute Regiment insignia on Saturday may have caused upset and that its annual parade should not be used to raise tensions in Londonderry.

Members of the Clyde Valley Flute Band also had the letter ‘F’ displayed on the sleeves of their uniforms to show support for Soldier F, the former soldier facing prosecution for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in Derry.

Mr Donnelly said the Apprentice Boys March which takes place every year in Londonderry has no equivalent political expression of what he described as 'the other' anywhere in Northern Ireland.

"We don't have in Bangor or in Antrim or Carrickfergus, 8,000 republicans with 145 bands marching around several times a year," he said.

"If you were trying to concoct for notional purposes an equivalent to this parade - what would be the unionist reaction if 8,000 republicans marched around the centre of Antrim to commemorate the United Irishmen and one of the bands wore some type of symbol indicating support for the Massereene Barracks killers?"

He questioned whether political unionism would suggest that the marchers had the right to express themselves and that the PSNI were wrong to intervene.

"Would it be to suggest the only people who breached the peace would be people who objected?"

When asked by the presenter William Crawley whether he acknowledged that unionists would find his words threatening, Mr Donnelly said he thought his words were about remembering, not threatening.

"We need to call this as it is, this is a tradition worth keeping for all involved, we want to get to the point where the Apprentice Boys and Orange Order parades can continue to be viewed as non-contentious in Derry. The problem with what happened at the weekend is that is now in doubt."

Governor Graeme Stenhouse spoke after a loyalist flute band from Larne paraded close to the scene of Bloody Sunday with a Parachute Regiment symbol on their uniforms.

Mr Stenhouse said the loyal order’s officers had no knowledge of the insignia until the parade had concluded.

“We recognise that this may have caused upset to many in the nationalist community,” he said.

“Our focus at this parade is to commemorate the siege and the relief of the city in 1689 and in no way should it be used to heighten tensions in a shared city.”

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