MEMBERS of Ballintoy Accordion band say they are both angry and disgusted at criticism from a Sinn Fein councillor over their appearance at a fun day in the village recently.
Local representative, Cara McShane, produced a statement - not received by this newspaper - stating that she had received complaints from people living in the area who were “annoyed by the lack of consultation.”
She claimed that at no stage in an application for funding from Moyle District council that an “Orange band would be playing through the village to lead a children’s fancy dress parade.”
She said that when she raised objections at a meeting of the organisers - Ballintoy District Community Development Association - she was left with the impression that “it would not be happening.”
She further claimed that promotional literature was edited to omit the words ‘band parade.’
Although much of Councillor McShane’s comments were directed at the Association, the band have been stung by the criticism.
Cllr. McShane said the issue had left a sour feeling in the village which prided itself on good relations.”
Ballintoy band members have reacted with incredulity at the tone of the story.
One member told the Times: “This is just unbelievable that someone would react in this way and drag us into an issue when all we were doing was helping out at a cross-community event. But when we thought about it, it wasn’t surprising. In our opinion, this was politically vindictive, nasty and does absolutely nothing for community relations in the village.
“First of all, we were asked by the Association to lead a fancy dress parade. Out of a sense of civic pride and commitment, we agreed and we couldn’t have been treated any better by the Association, particularly by the chairman. They gave us a great reception and were so grateful that we took part.
“We played hymns and never even considered any music that would have caused any offence. We had a great day and so we believe did the children who got the opportunity to play with our drums.
“The Association members couldn’t have been nicer to us and for Cara McShane to put out this story is a disgrace.”
The band member also hit out at the description ‘Orange band’ stating: “We are a band who lead an Orange Lodge. Does this mean that we are to be excluded from taking part in community events, causing no offence and not wearing any regalia that would bring hurt or harm?”
Councillor Joan Baird, hit back at the comments of Cllr. McShane. She said she was ‘honoured to attend the village fun day which Cllr McShane so shamefully criticises in her letter’.
She said: “Ballintoy and District has enjoyed a sharing and caring community spirit for many generations. People from the village and local rural area have over the years worked together, laughed together, supported each other in times of need, and above all respected each other’s culture.
“Over the generations deep trust and cohesive bonds have formed between families in the area, bonds which cannot be damaged or tarnished by public out lashes such as was contained in Councillor Cara McShane’s letter to the press on 9 August.
“I should declare early on that my knowledge of the Ballintoy and District is based not just on current events but a catalogue of knowledge gained from my ancestral past running back some 400 years.
“The village and area has despite years of mayhem in other parts of Northern Ireland, retained its tradition of good neighbourliness and cross community spirit.
“I was honoured to attend the village fun day which Cllr McShane so shamefully criticises in her letter. The day started with a car boot sale held in the grounds of St Joseph’s Church and this was followed by the children’s fancy dress parade headed up by some senior members of Ballintoy Accordion Band.
“The band wore smart grey uniforms; no emblems were displayed, and played only hymn tunes and a couple of Scottish airs. Local people and tourists alike joined in the jolly atmosphere as the children walked to the music to St Joseph’s Hall where the Chairman of Moyle Council judged the competition.
“To the best of my knowledge all young children, and some not so young, who live in the village were there; it was a lovely sunny day and one to remember as happy and carefree. It was clear that the organisers had put a great deal of effort into ensuring the event was a great success and I would congratulate and thank them for the enormous amount of voluntary effort they make on behalf of our community.
“Pity then Cllr McShane did not recognise how happy and relaxed everyone was and even more distasteful that she went about venting her “anger” in such an oppressive manner.”
We sought a response from the Community Association but were unable to get one although it is understood that a statement has been issued on the matter.