Belfast Telegraph

DUP MLA slams Parades Commission after conditions imposed on Co Antrim band parade

A DUP MLA has described a Parades Commission determination on a band parade in Co Antrim as "illogical and unreasonable".

The commission imposed a series of conditions on this year's Ballymaconnelly Band Parade in Rasharkin on Friday.

The conditions include that it must finish by 9pm, a maximum of 25 bands should participate and that participants and supporters of the parade must refrain from using "sectarian or threatening" words.

The Rasharkin Residents' Collective will protest against the parade but the Rasharkin Residents Association has decided not to protest in light of the determination.

The protesters have claimed the parade is "completely out of character and proportion" of the nature of Rasharkin and that it has a "negative impact" on community relations.

The commission told the Belfast Telegraph the conditions were "necessary, proportionate and fair".

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said the decision displayed the reasons why the Parades Commission should be "removed and consigned to history" and that he would be calling for the head of the commission, Anne Henderson to resign during a meeting with the commission on Wednesday.

"This year’s determination is again clear proof if any were needed that this commission headed by Anne Henderson, has no capacity or interest in listening to the case put by the representatives of Ballymaconnelly Band," he said.

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A parade hosted by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors, passes threw Rasharkin Main Street in 2016.

Mr Storey added: "Rather they would prefer to listen to a collection of Republican groups who are unelected and unaccountable and who can’t even agree amongst themselves.

"As I have said repeatedly in the past, the Parades Commission would prefer to allow the village of Rasharkin to be the playground for divided republican groups.

"This again has been rewarded by the commission, despite the disgraceful behaviour of the protesters last year.

"However, as always Ballymaconnelly will abide by the law and will again this year, as they have for over 30 years during their annual parade. Despite the disrespect and intolerance displayed by republicans and the illogical and irrational determination from the Parades Commission, Ballymaconnelly Band will parade with pride and dignity.”

Rasharkin Residents Association spokesperson welcomed the determination by the commission and announced it will not be protesting the event on Friday.

 "We have been working with and lobbying the Parades Commission for many years to bring this annual parade into an acceptable format that does not infringe upon the rights and indeed the lives of those living and working in Rasharkin village," a spokesperson said.

"While this determination is not the ideal solution or outcome for residents it is a welcome step towards the basis for a resolution ensuring that those living and working in the village of Rasharkin can do so with limited disruption."

A spokesman for the Commission said that the 14 loyal order parades held in Rasharkin each year are largely "peaceful and enjoyable."

"Community tensions, however, are heightened in the lead up to the Balymaconnelly band parade which takes place on a Friday evening in August," the spokesman said.

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A parade hosted by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors, passes threw Rasharkin Main Street in 2016.

"Residents’ groups claim that the atmosphere on the day of the parade is tense with ‘businesses closing for the night and the whole area shutting down.’ The parade and the two protests against it involve a major policing operation. There were concerns about the conduct of the parade and one of the protests last year."

"Objections to the parade focus on its large scale of 25 loyalist bands in a small residential rural village of approximately 1,200 inhabitants. Disruption from the parade, protests and associated policing occurs from mid-afternoon on the day of the parade to late evening, with local roads around the village partially or fully closed for a period of time."

The spokesman said successive attempts at mediation over the years had not achieved an accommodation and that the prospects for a local resolution were low.

The spokesman added: "The Commission has therefore determined that the parade of 25 bands shall proceed through the full length of the village in one direction only.

"It will take 90 minutes to process and will finish by 9pm. The parade shall not re-enter the village. The Commission has also determined that the two protests of 50 participants are each limited to 25 participants.

"The Commission has imposed on the parade and protests conditions which are, in all the circumstances, necessary, proportionate and fair.

"The Commission continues to encourage all parties to this dispute to achieve an accommodation which meets the needs of the local communities."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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