Loyalist parade spokesman: ‘We respect your rights, you respect ours’
The organiser of the controversial loyalist St. Patrick’s Day parade has insisted that yesterday’s Parades Commission determination will not be viewed as a victory to the Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band. Newry Times reported yesterday that the Parades Commission had given the green light for up to 40 bands to march through Armagh City on St. Patrick’s Day evening, several hours after the last St. Patrick’s Day parade has finished.
The decision by the Parades Commission has led to widespread nationalist and republican anger throughout Armagh and Newry, with Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy describing the determination as a ‘bad decision’ with the ‘possibility of damaging the good community relations that exist in Armagh’. Speaking to Newry Times Murphy stated, “Despite the clear evidence that the community and businesses in Armagh do not want this march to go ahead, the Parades Commission has ignored any concerns and pushed ahead with their original disastrous decision. I have heard already of groups pulling out of the St. Patrick’s parade earlier in the day due to this march being allowed. This should have been a no-brainer for the Parades Commission but they somehow failed the test and the PSNI’s crazy assertion that there was no local concern over the march defies belief.”
Despite the reaction in the nationalist and republican community, the band’s spokesman Quincey Dougan said that ‘the band do not view this as a victory by any stretch of the imagination’. He stated, “This whole process has been a scenario that none of us, of whatever cultural, religious or political background, need. We need a society where we can resolve disagreements without resorting to statutory agencies and bodies. Cormeen Flute stated at the outset they would abide with any decisions made and prior to the latest Parades Commission determination that still was the case irrespective of the outcome.”
Dougan continued, “During this process the band has avoided all the old rhetoric, stayed away from the old arguments and the ‘traditional’ ‘whataboutery’. Cormeen Flute commissioned detailed commercial and community impact assessments evaluating the evening procession, and believe those reports to be accurate. They also explained their motivations and reasoning, and underlined the entire process with a detailed organisational plan for the evening. The band has taken its responsibilities very seriously.”
Quincey also spoke of his disappointment at what he claims were knock-backs by Sinn Fein and SDLP after the band initiated contact and offered to meet both parties. “Since we were first made aware of concerns, Sinn Fein or the SDLP have not taken up the repeated offers of meeting with band representatives to discuss their apprehension. This is particularly disappointing in relation to Sinn Fein given that this failure is in direct contradiction to the framework for engagement policy within their Charter for Unionist Engagement document. The offer is however still on the table, and will not be taken off it. We will gladly still meet to try and allay any concerns or fears, and will be making that offer officially once again in the coming days.”
“The band will fully comply with the determination on Saturday evening, and will be working with the PSNI to ensure it is an enjoyable and trouble free evening for all. St Patrick is the patron Saint of all of Ireland and all of its people. We fully respect the rights of others to celebrate according to their own traditions, and in turn would ask they respect ours,” Dougan added.
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