Belfast Telegraph

Mixed reaction to rally in support of band that backs murder charge soldier F

A rally in Larne on Saturday in support of the Clyde Valley Flute Band
A rally in Larne on Saturday in support of the Clyde Valley Flute Band

By Aine McMahon

A row has broken out over a show of solidarity for a band that faced criticism for supporting Soldier F at an Apprentice Boys parade.

Several hundred bandsmen came to Larne, Co Antrim, at the weekend to show support for Clyde Valley Flute Band.

The band caused controversy in August after its members marched in the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry wearing a Parachute Regiment emblem with the letter F on their sleeves.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said people have the right to support Soldier F. However, Sinn Fein said Saturday evening's parade had caused further hurt.

The motif worn by Clyde Valley is a reference to Soldier F, a former member of the Army's Parachute Regiment, who is accused of two counts of murder and four of attempted murder on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead, while 15 others were shot and injured that day 47 years ago.

The Parades Commission had deemed the event on Saturday to be "sensitive", but it passed off without any incident.

Mr Wilson said Saturday's parade is part of an ongoing campaign "to ensure the rewriting of the Troubles is not allowed".

"The message from the people here tonight to the public representatives and to the government in Westminster is you must stop the abuse of the juridical system," he said.

"Stop dragging old men before the courts when they have been cleared because they want to put the blame on security forces. This will be an ongoing campaign until Westminster gives some protection to the police and the Army for the role they played during the Troubles."

Mr Wilson said people who took part in the parade were "proudly" wearing Soldier F insignia and banners.

"They have a right to do it and are absolutely correct in doing so because they are engaged in a propaganda war that we cannot afford or allow the republicans to win," he added.

However, local Sinn Fein councillor Oliver McMullan claimed the parade had soured community relations in the town. "The parade on Saturday night was nothing short of a coat trailing exercise which achieved nothing other than bringing further hurt to the families who are victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

"The erection of offensive and provocative banners and parades supporting the British Parachute Regiment and 'Soldier F' - the former British soldier facing murder charges in connection with Bloody Sunday - across Belfast and throughout the North have caused widespread hurt and trauma," Mr McMullan said. He said he had contacted police to raise his concerns.

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