DUP councillor, John Finlay, has urged unionist and orange leaders to ensure that the villages of Rasharkin and Dunloy are included in any overall strategy being developed in relation to the parading issue.
He said: “I commend the decision by the various unionist parties to withdraw from the all-party talks at Stormont as a direct result of the iniquitous and insulting determination by the Parades Commission on the Ardoyne. This determination merely confirms that those who threaten violence are rewarded, while law-abiding citizens are denied the right of peaceful procession along a main arterial route.
“I have long argued, in letters, statements and speeches, that the Parades Commission was not fit for purpose. If anything, this newly constituted Commission is even worse than its predecessors and some of its decisions could well have far-reaching consequences. It does indeed appear that the Ardoyne decision could be the straw that has broken the camel’s back.
“During the recent election campaign, I heard a lot from the electorate about the parading issue. Feelings of frustration were expressed to me about what people saw as the steady erosion of the rights of Protestants and Unionists through restrictions on loyal order parades. I am convinced that the sort of resolute action now being taken by Unionism will resonate with the Unionist people.
“For many years now, members of the loyal orders have faced restrictions on their parades in the villages of Rasharkin and Dunloy in North Antrim, and I have urged Unionist and Orange leaders to ensure that these two long-standing disputes are included as part of the development of an overall strategy in the coming days and weeks.
“Dunloy has been a no-go area for Protestant parades for a very long time and it was one of the earliest disputed parades. Yet again this Twelfth, my lodge, Dunloy LOL 496, will assemble along with Dunloy Accordion Band in the morning, but we will be prevented from parading to the war memorial to lay our wreath in memory of our dead. As law-abiding citizens, we will read out our letter of protest, but we respect the law and will take no further action. That is not to say that we are not frustrated or angry, for we are both.
“And in Rasharkin, Ballymaconnelly LOL 360 and Rasharkin Chosen Few LOL 694 have once again been told that they cannot parade through Sunnyside Drive in Rasharkin on their return from the Ballymoney demonstration on the Twelfth evening. Sunnyside Drive contains some two dozen houses and about ten of these are occupied by Protestants, but the Commission has decided to deny these people their civil rights. This sort of appeasement merely exacerbates and increases community tensions.
“I know both villages well and I am convinced that a large majority of the decent nationalist community have no difficulty whatever with these small parades on what is the biggest day in the Orange calendar. Yes again, a small militant hard-line republican core is setting the agenda and people are afraid to speak out.
“The time has come for both these outstanding issues to be properly resolved, and I believe that with strong united unionist and Protestant leadership that can now be achieved”.