Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Eastwood says 'Soldier F' band decision not to parade 'a step on road to healing summer's pain'


Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood
A Clyde Valley Flute Band member with the Soldier F badge

SDLP leader Column Eastwood has welcomed a move by a loyalist flute band to pull out of a parade in Londonderry as a step toward healing pain caused during the summer.

Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band caused outrage over the display of Parachute Regiment and Soldier F insignias during the annual Apprentice Boys parade in the city on August 12.

PSNI officers had to flank the band as it made its way through the city in an effort to prevent a breach of the peace. Police also later stopped a bus carrying the band on their way home to Larne.

The band's decision on next month's parade, it is understood, came after discussions with the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Foyle MLA Eastwood said the incident in the summer caused much pain and division.

“The thoughtful and considered response from the Apprentice Boys’ in the aftermath was welcome and demonstrated the spirit of compromise, accommodation and respect that has allowed the Derry Model of parading to endure," he said.

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A Clyde Valley Flute Band member with the Soldier F badge

“The decision that the Clyde Vally band will not march during Lundy’s Day is another step on the road to healing this summer’s pain. It shows that those involved have reflected on what happened and we should give them credit for that.

“Our city has been a trailblazer for mutual respect and accommodation of difference. It’s important that we all recommit to those values.”

Soldier F has been charged with two murders and four attempted murders committed on Bloody Sunday in 1972. His case is expected to be raised at Londonderry Magistrates' Court next month.

August's incident sparked anger from many sections of the community, with the Apprentice Boys of Derry later apologising for any offence caused.

Clyde Valley Flute Band will not be taking part in next month's Lundy's Day parade, where some 2,000 Apprentice Boys and scores of bands are expected to commemorate the 17th century Siege of Derry, The Irish News reported.

The Apprentice Boys have yet to formally submit their 11/1 notice, which states the details of any planned parade, including the bands taking part, to the Parades Commission.

In a statement following August's parade, Clyde Valley Flute Band, also know as "The Gun Runners", defended their actions, stating their expression of support for Soldier F is a "legitimately held view" which they are entitled to hold.

"The officers of the band wish to correct any false impression which may be held regarding the band's uniform being deliberately provocative and specifically designed for the parade in Londonderry," they added.

"The uniform in question has been worn on many previous occasions without incident or controversy."

Graeme Stenhouse, the governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, however, said the loyal order had no prior knowledge the band was going to wear the insignia and that they recognised the hurt it may have caused to many in the nationalist community.

Following his apology, several loyalist bands said they would no longer take part in future Apprentice Boys parades.

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