Bands will step out in protest in Ballymoney

Protestants Against Injustice committee: (front) Matthew Hagan, Darryl Wilson and Raymond Christie; (back) Gary Blair, William Archibald, Russell Watton , Anne Smyth and James Anderson INBM 40-751-CON
Protestants Against Injustice committee: (front) Matthew Hagan, Darryl Wilson and Raymond Christie; (back) Gary Blair, William Archibald, Russell Watton , Anne Smyth and James Anderson INBM 40-751-CON

An estimated 5,000 people are expected to attend a “peaceful protest” against the Parades Commission in Ballymoney on Saturday evening.

The newly-formed Protestants Against Injustice Committee says the rally, which is expected to draw more than 40 bands, will be the starting point for a campaign to have the commission dissolved.

In a statement to the Ballymoney Times, the group said: “The committee have no political agenda, only a desire to unite unionism in a bid to see the Parades Commission be disbanded.

“Our aim is to call upon the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to dissolve the Parades Commission. We ask that the Secretary of State provides leadership where the Northern Ireland government can’t, namely our joint First Ministers, Justice Minister and Executive, on dealing with the Parades Commission.

“The Northern Ireland Executive refuses to recognise and deal with the consequences caused by parades commission decisions , instead opting for a ‘head in the sand’ approach while ignoring the injustices served out to the PUL (Protestant unionist loyalist) community on a regular basis.

“Our goal through peaceful protest and petition is to send out a very clear message to our government, we will not be ignored.”

Sinn Fein, however, has accused PAIC, which is made up of members of the loyal orders and band fraternity, of heightening tensions.

The party’s North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said: “The PAIC say they have no political agenda but I would suggest their desire to unite unionism in a bid to disband the Parades Commission is a political agenda.

“I find it bizarre when after a relatively peaceful summer this group is intent on heightening tensions in the local North Antrim area. That is not the way forward either in their attempts to protect culture or to progress society. it will produce only negativity and we will all suffer.

“I would call on this group and on all parade organisers, orders, etc rather than grandstand to engage with local communities to resolve the very small number of issues that still remain around parades in North Antrim.”

PAIC says the evening will also see the launch of a petition against the decisions and determinations of the Parades Commission.

Its aims also include creating a central fund “to enable bands and the loyal orders to legally challenge decisions made by the Parades Commission that are undemocratic and unjust” and a campaign to have attacks on Orange halls officially regarded as hate crimes.

The parade, of which the commission has been notified, is due to commence this Saturday at 6.30pm in Ballymoney.