DUP Councillor John Finlay has expressed his outrage at the decision by the Parades Commission to impose new restrictions on the annual Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band parade in Rasharkin.
Cllr Finlay said: “At the end of July, I wrote to the recently appointed Parades Commission in relation to the forthcoming annual band parade hosted by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors flute band and I appealed to it to defend the rights of this highly respected band and its guests to hold its annual parade without undue restriction. I also wrote to the Commission a few days later to urge a firm stand against the protest planned by maverick hard-line republican group operating as the “Rasharkin Residents Collective”. I advised Commissioners that if they did so, they would send out a welcome signal that intimidation and threats of violence will no longer succeed. I also pointed out that failure to stand firm would, of course, have precisely the opposite effect.
“My words clearly fell on deaf ears, for not only has the Commission imposed the same restrictions as in previous years – restricting the size of the parade and the duration of the evening - it has gone further and added a new, and totally outrageous, restriction which requires all participating bands to play only a single drum beat as they pass the protestors. While I can, to some extent at least, understand the rationale behind a single drum beat when a band passes a place of worship, there is absolutely no justification whatever for such an imposition when bands are passing a group of protestors who are have come out on to the streets merely to be “offended” and thereby to heighten tension.
“This latest determination is an affront to the whole principle of civil liberty, and it simply confirms that this new Commission, even more than its predecessor, is weak and cowardly and operating to a republican agenda.
“There is a palpable sense of anger within the Protestant and unionist community over this decision, but I urge the bands and the supporters and spectators to maintain their dignity and to exercise their customary restraint on the evening of the parade.
“Meanwhile, along with other elected representatives, I will continue to pursue these matters as best I can, but it is now clear beyond doubt that the Parades Commission, far from being an impartial facilitator, is an integral part of the problem and must be scrapped”.