100 protest at Rasharkin parade

SINN Fein and the DUP are at loggerheads again following Friday evening's parade in Rasharkin. Approximately 100 nationalists - including well-known local republicans - vented their opposition as 38 bands made their way through the village for the event which is hosted annually by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band.

Up to 1000 band supporters who descended on Rasharkin were greeted by dozens opposed to the parade brandishing placards bearing slogans such as 'Residents' rights being trampled on'.

While the evening passed off without incident, both factions have voiced concerns in the aftermath of the parade.

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay has claimed that residents were intimidated by loyalist band supporters - with a number threatened by men professing to be members of the UVF, according to Mr McKay.

"Several residents have informed me that when they challenged a number of uniformed bandsmen who were urinating in their gardens, they were subjected to a torrent of abusive language and threats against their person," said the North Antrim Assemblyman.

Mr McKay also alleged that bands ignored a determination that they were not to play the Sash on Main Street.

He praised the behaviour of the those protesting but said the influx of loyalists "coming into the village and misbehaving" had caused "a lot of anger" locally.

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey claimed many of those voicing their opposition to the parade had been specifically brought in to the area.

"If that's the best they can do they have failed miserably," he added.

"The way that republicans have brought people into this village to engage in a protest is evidence that they cannot encourage local people to come out and protest, because the majority of these people are not from the village.

"It says a lot about them - the fact they have to boost their own support by bringing people in from as far away as Belfast."

Mr Storey also raised concerns about a number of individuals who he claimed were filming the bandsmen and supporters throughout the evening.

Mr Storey added that the bands and their supporters had behaved "impeccably".

A senior parade source denied that any of the flags being flown by bands during Friday night's parade were illegal.

A police spokesman said: "There was quite a substantial police presence in place to ensure the event passed off peacefully."

The spokesman praised the behaviour of both the parade's organisers and those protesting .

"I am happy to say there were no incidents," he added.

Community relations in Rasharkin are at rock bottom after clashes between rival factions over the Twelfth period and a spate of attacks on properties in the village in recent months.

The Orange Hall has also been targeted on several occasions with the letters 'IRA' daubed on the building last weekend.