Allister condemns behaviour of Rasharkin band

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TUV Leader Jim Allister has hit out at the behaviour of Rasharkin band, Rising Sons of Ireland at the St Patrick’s day parade in Cookstown.

Video on Youtube reportedly shows the band stopping opposite a Protestant crowd and taunting them, with the bands supporters said to be shouting slogans.

The band had to be told by the PSNI to move on, though otherwise the police response was very timid, said Mr Allister.

He said: “The coat-trailing and provocative exercise in which the Rasharkin band and their supporters engaged was disgraceful.

“Both the police and the monitors from the Parades Commission should now be instigating action in respect of behaviour which was at least likely to provoke a breach of the peace.

“It seems that some republicans, not satisfied with imposing their intolerance and dogma on Rasharkin, now want to export it wherever they go.

“They brought discord and anti-Protestant hatred to Cookstown of which we’ve seen enough in Rasharkin.”

Mid Ulster DUP MLA Ian McCrea accused the Sons of Ireland Republican Flute Band of attempting to inflame tensions in the area and said they have damaged community relations in Cookstown.

He also raised concerns in relation to the Parades Commission’s approach to dealing with bands who breach rules and said he believes the Commission operate a “dual standard” when dealing with bands from different sections of the community.

He said: “This meeting was an opportunity to raise a number of issues with the Commission regarding the St Patrick’s Day parade in Cookstown.

“There are questions about whether some of the feeder parades on the day were covered by proper notification, and we look forward to confirmation on this issue from the Commission.  “The main parade in Cookstown passed completely without incident except for the actions of the Sons of Ireland flute band from Rasharkin. This particular band were listed on the 11/1 notification for the main parade and therefore the parade organisers bear responsibility for their actions.

“However, on the return route this band were the last to parade. They waited until others had cleared and then stopped beside a group of Protestant residents and attempted to inflame tensions.

“The band were stopped for approximately 5-10 minutes and footage of the event has been posted on the internet for anyone to see. The problems caused by this band have not helped community relations in Cookstown and unfortunately have only served to increase tensions.”

However, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians - who hosted the day’s events - hit back by accusing the group of spectators who filmed the event, of “intelligence gathering”.

Ciaran McElhone, a member of the Cookstown Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said: “There was only a small minority of people who wanted to intimate people by using their cameras. But it’s intelligence gathering on the people that were taking part in the parade.”

The Chairman of Cookstown Council, John McNamee, said intimidating comments were posted under a video which was put on the internet.

He said: “The events which occurred on St Patrick’s Day were disgusting and it’s something I’ll be raising with the police when I meet with them soon.

“The group of Loyalists came down and took videos of band members and people parading then posted them on Youtube and left inflammatory comments.

“I was referred to as an IRA terrorist - they are intimating me and my family. Images of band members’ faces were posted online and threatening and intimidating language was posted.

“These people on the Unionist side have no respect for the Irish culture by calling them an IRA band.”

The video taken of the parade was uploaded onto the website YouTube.

As the band passed spectators, abuse was exchanged from each side.

A line of police separated the group of spectators and the band from Rasharkin.