Parade passes off without incident

The annual Ballymaconnelly band parade passed off without incident in Rasharkin on Friday night, but local politicians are still divided on the way forward.

As expected, police deployed a sizeable number of officers to the village and a helicopter flew overhead for most of the afternoon and evening, prompting local Sinn Fein MLA, Daithi McKay, to query the cost of such an operation.

Protesters and supporters were kept apart and a ‘sterile’ zone accommodated observers and press and, on the opposite side, placard waving protesters who blew whistles and jeered when the parade, led by Cloughmills Crown Defenders, passed by.

Earlier, a pipe bomb was found in the RosettaTerrace/Carnfinton Park area after a proactive operation.

It was subsequently removed by the Army and caused no major disruption.

DUP councillor, John Finlay, congratulated Ballymaconnelly on the parade.

He described the behaviour of some militant Republican elements as provocative and congratulated other bands for “displaying great restraint in the face of the Parade Commission’s decision to once again radically reduce the size of the parade and impose absurd restrictions on its duration.”

Councillor Finlay criticised the Parades Commission for “bowing to pressure from the so-called Rasharkin Residents’ Collective.”

He also criticised the Collective for allegedly using inflammatory language on the social media network which, he said, could only have the effect of increasing community tensions and further denying Protestants their civil liberties.

Sinn Féin councillor Cathal McLaughlin said the core issue of respect has not been dealt with and direct dialogue is needed regarding the parade.

Cllr McLaughlin said: “The residents feel that the Parades Commission determination didn’t go far enough.

“The residents still want dialogue and that dialogue should happen now.

“This is only one of many parades that Rasharkin has every year.

“We also have the leaders of unionism saying that talks between the residents and parade organisers should take place.

“So let’s start those talks.

“While the residents are still disappointed in the determination it also states however,” the Commission is disappointed that there has not yet been direct contact between the parade organisers and Rasharkin residents.

”What everyone wants is a peaceful summer and for our part Sinn Féin will be there to support the residents.”