Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist bands withdraw support for Apprentice Boys following Derry Soldier F controversy

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

Several loyalist bands have said they will not take part in future Apprentice Boys of Derry parades, following their statement concerning the actions of a band who wore Parachute Regiment emblems at an event at the weekend.

During a parade on Saturday, the Cyde Valley Flute Band, from Larne, had the regiment's symbol and the letter "F" on their uniforms as they made their way through Derry.

Soldier F is facing prosecution for the murders of two civil rights demonstrators and the attempted murder of four others in the city on Bloody Sunday.

A large number of police officers surrounded the band as it made its way through the Waterside area in order to prevent a breach a peace.

Members of the band were also stopped by police as their bus made its way back to Larne.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Apprentice Boys Governor, Graeme Stenhouse, said the loyal order had no prior knowledge that the Clyde Valley Flute Band were going to wear the insignia and said they recognised the hurt it may have caused.

"The officers on the general committee had no prior knowledge of the band's uniform, or this incident, until the conclusion of the main parade at Bond Street," he said.

"We recognise that this may have caused upset to many in the nationalist community. Our focus at this parade is to commemorate the siege and relief of the city in 1689 and in no way should it be used as a means to heighten tensions in a shared city."

It has now emerged that several loyalist band have decided not to take part in any future Apprentice Boys parades to show their support for the Larne band, who have also ruled themselves out of any future events.

In a post on Facebook, Rathcoole Protestant Boys said the Apprentice Boys statement was a "complete joke" and the band had been "hung out to dry".

"The band didn't break the law and no one reported them, this was just political policing and holding a band back in case they offended someone with a two-inch badge on their shirt," they added.

The Pride of Ballybeen and Cloughfern Young Conquerors have also withdrawn their support for the Apprentice Boys and said they will not take part in any future parades with the organisation.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the party feels last week was "not a good week" for policing in Northern Ireland, considering how the PSNI handled the parade in Derry compared to a republican parade in Strabane the previous weekend.

During the Strabane National Hunger Strike Commemoration, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson announced during a speech that "Britain's days in Ireland are numbered" and used the slogan "Tiocfaidh ar la".

Speaking following a meeting with the Apprentice Boys on Wednesday, Arlene Foster said: "For our part we have been, and will continue to be, sensitive to issues around parades in Londonderry and will continue in this vein. Success will be achieved and a better way forward for Northern Ireland charted when all sides share this outlook.

"Unfortunately in republican parades this does not seem to be the case as demonstrated most recently in Strabane. Republicans cannot escape their responsibilities given repeatedly offensive behaviour at their commemorations and parades."

"For many years the Apprentice Boys have been engaged in a process of dialogue in the city with stakeholders and it is important in the light of recent events that they and others continue to engage in those discussions in a manner that will bring about respect, accommodation, and tolerance in the city and the wider region.

"We have always supported that process and we continue to support the Apprentice Boys in those efforts."

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