Ballymoney DUP Councillor, John Finlay, has hit out at the Parades Commission after placing restrictions on the Rasharkin Apprentice Boys Club for their parade on Saturday 13 August.
He said that this ruling was deeply concerning as it was the first time such a restriction had been placed on them and that the determination bans the Apprentice Boys Club from walking through the Sunnyside estate, where a number of Protestants’ live.
Cllr John Finlay said: “I am horrified and appalled at this ruling by the Parades’ Commission and this offers further evidence that this body needs to go.
“This is the first time the Apprentice Boys Club in Rasharkin have been effectively banned from part of their route and it is therefore very concerning. The area of Sunnyside is a mixed estate but home to a significant number of Protestants’ left in Rasharkin.
“The Parades Commission are pandering to Republican objectives in the village, which is to chase and bully Protestants’ out of the village. It was only a matter of weeks ago that a Protestant resident had his car destroyed by Republicans in an arson attack. This ruling is one which discriminates and condemns Protestants’ despite them having done nothing wrong. Members of the Apprentice Boys Club have shown nothing but respect for the local community and abided by previous Parades Commission rulings. This decision is therefore out of the blue and totally out of order.
“This ruling, amongst many others this summer, provides clear evidence that the Parades Commission needs to go. Last year my party put forward proposals which would have seen this unelected quango go but due to the actions of a minority these proposals were unable to be put into effect. This would have seen this body quashed and common sense prevailing.
“I call on the Parades Commission to review their decision and to make a decision which doesn’t discriminate against law bidding citizens.”
Disagreeing, North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay described the Parades Commission decision as a ‘step in the right direction’ but said there was ‘a lot more to do’.
However he added that there is a responsibility on any party organising parades in Rasharkin to engage with local residents and that the continuing refusal to engage is doing untold damage to community relations in the area.
Mr McKay explained: “The decision to ban the Apprentice Boys parade from Sunnyside Drive should not be viewed as a controversial decision but as a common-sense decision.
“Residents’ property was damaged in Sunnyside by parade participants last year and people living there have signed a petition in the past outlining that they didn’t want any parades coming into the cul-de-sac.
“The organisers refuse to engage with local residents, with people who live in the village, about concerns about the parade. That is an untenable position and has unnecessarily raised tensions in the village over the last number of years.
“The Parades Commission must take this into account when making decisions in regard to parades and the decisions must reflect the fact that parade organisers are making no attempt to resolve disputes and in fact are exacerbating them.”
He said community relations have undoubtedly been damaged as a result of excessive parades such as the Ballymaconnelly parade and claimed that is a view which is shared by many within the unionist community who wish to distance themselves from parades which involve bands with certain links and who engage in “sectarian behaviour”.
Added Mr McKay: “It is quite clear that parade organisers have responsibilities and there is an onus on them to engage with residents in areas that they want to march in. They must do that in the interests of improving community relations in this area and they must do it now to help take the heat out of this situation.”