DUP representatives have met with the Parades Commission in relation to the recent Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors parade.
Cllr John Finlay said: “We met the Parades Commission in order to highlight to commissioners the fact that whilst the parade organisers and participants complied with the draconian conditions foisted upon them this year yet again, the same cannot be said of the parade-related protests.
“We also took the opportunity to ask the Commission why, in considering the parade and protests, it had ignored the lawlessness that emanated from the protestors in 2013 but imposed further restrictions on the parade organisers who had adhered to the unreasonable terms imposed by the commission in previous years. The Commission is on record as saying it takes into account the conduct of participants in previous parades or protests when considering possible restrictions – but its’ actions this year were entirely at odds with its stated position. When we put this to the Commissioners they were unable to explain why this was the case. This is unsatisfactory and in this instance we believe the Commission has acted without due regard to its’ own processes.”
Cllr Trevor Clarke added: “At the meeting, Commissioners remarked to us Rasharkin is in lockdown for up to seven hours as a result of the Ballymaconnelly parade. This is a myth pedaled for political reasons and regrettably the Parades Commission accepted this claim without question. We suggested the Parades Commission should test the veracity of information presented to it by so-called residents groups and others before it is considered admissible as bona fide evidence.
“Whilst the Commission sees fit to facilitate two protests it does nothing to test how representative these protest bodies are of local opinion. It insists parade organisers engage in dialogue. This is unreasonable and only serves to lend credibility to those who want to see the loyalist parading tradition denigrated and destroyed. It is our view the Commission has once again damaged its own credibility by adopting an illogical and unsound decision-making rationale that rewards the law-breakers and punishes those who act within the law.”
In a statement Rasharkin Residents Association chairperson Leanne Peacock disagreed stating: “There were no breaches of the Parades Commission determination at the Rasharkin Residents Association protest on 22nd August. The DUP have put out a lengthy statement but have not once outlined what they believe these breaches to be. The parade is now over and this is a blatant attempt to stir up tensions in the area.”