Parade planned for bands to show solidarity in murder charge Soldier F row
BANDS from across Northern Ireland and as far away as the east of Scotland will gather at the start of October in a show of solidarity with Clyde Valley Flute Band over the Soldier F emblem row.
A parade and rally will be held in their home town of Larne to show support for the group who found themselves at the centre of a political storm last week at the annual Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) commemorations.
The band - also known as The Gun Runners - were escorted by the PSNI because they bore Parachute Regiment emblems in support of Soldier F, who is facing murder charges over Bloody Sunday. The police then later stopped their bus on their way home - leading to an outcry from unionist politicians that they had been heavy-handed.
Amid republican and nationalist condemnation, the dispute took another twist when the ABOD said they recognised the potential upset caused.
At 7pm on Saturday, October 5, bands are set to assemble at Larne's Laharna Retail car park and parade through the town before a rally which politicians are expected to address.
The MP for East Antrim - the DUP's Sammy Wilson - has told Sunday Life he is going to support the rally.
Mr Wilson, who defended the band during a BBC debate on Talkback last week, confirmed: "I will be there."
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Among those pledging to attend are Musselburgh True Defenders from Scotland, as well as bands from Coleraine, Downpatrick, Bangor, Belfast and Bushmills.
So far 16 bands are confirmed to join Clyde Valley on the march with many more expected to follow suit between now and October, and they have encouraged other members of the PUL (Protestant unionist loyalist) community to support them, too.
A spokesperson said: "We would like to take this opportunity to say all Orangemen are invited, Orange women, Apprentice Boys, members of the RBP, Somme societies, veteran associations and juvenile lodges, also."
Meanwhile, Clyde Valley revealed on their Facebook page that their officers attended a meeting with representatives of Rathcoole Campsie Branch Club and the ABOD General Committee on Thursday night and agreed to continue their links with them.
They said: "The band put forward their concerns and the concerns of the wider community robustly to the representatives of ABOD around Saturday's events and the subsequent media tirade which has ensued.
"All parties acknowledged that lessons have been learned following Saturday's events, and agreed a united approach to work collaboratively as a PUL community going forward.
"CVFB have taken a position that, on balance, and after airing our views and listening to the answers, rationale and lessons learned approach at last evening's meeting, that our community is stronger united and in that regard we will continue our association with Rathcoole Campsie ABOD Branch Club."
But two bands - fellow Larne area outfit Cairncastle Flute Band and Cloughfern Young Conquerors (CYC) - have made the decision to boycott ABOD parades moving forward.