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Sinn Fein accused of hypocrisy over loyalist parade

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Sinn Fein has been accused of hypocrisy over its stance against a contentious loyalist march in Rasharkin.

UIster Unionist parades spokesman Michael Copeland has alleged the party has ‘double standards’ when it comes to parades.

Earlier this week the Parades Commission upheld a decision to allow 41 loyalist bands to march through the Co Antrim village without restriction.

However, bands have been warned in the commission’s determination that paramilitary-style clothing must not be worn at any time; flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation not be displayed; and musical instruments must not bear any inscription or mark of a proscribed organisation.

Mr Copeland claims parading guidelines were breached by participants of a republican parade to remember IRA man Gerard Casey in Rasharkin earlier this year.

“The organisers of Friday night’s parade have satisfied all the requirements of the Parades Commission and will, without doubt, discharge all their responsibilities.

“The local residents group however, under the apparent guidance of Sinn Fein MLA and Policing Board member Daithi McKay, continues to agitate against this event, claiming that the parade will involve offensive music, paramilitary uniforms and paramilitary symbolism.

“This stance quite rightly highlights the of hypocrisy and double standards of McKay and his cohorts, given their involvement in the Gerard Casey Cumann Sinn Fein parade in Rasharkin on March 24.

“I attended that parade together with representatives of the Ballymena and North and West Belfast Parades Forums and to be quite frank was astounded by what I saw, republican bands in paramilitary uniform, with instruments bearing paramilitary symbolism and playing, on a Sunday, pieces of music with which I was familiar which were definitely not hymn tunes, outside a gospel hall while a Sunday school was in progress.

“I can only presume that those objecting to Ballymaconnelly’s parade are blind to the hypocrisy of their own argument,” he said.

The allegation of double standards has been dismissed by Sinn Fein. North Antrim MLA Daithi McKay said: “Where republicans hold parades they are in areas where they are wanted. If it were the case, but it never would be, that a republican parade was to take place in a predominantly loyalist area, then people like Michael Copeland would have the right to think that it would have been done deliberately to cause offence.

“But republicans would never do that, because it is wrong.

“The parade in March was respectful, dignified and it was in memory of a local member of the community who was killed during the conflict.”

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