Protest for restricted Newtownbutler parade

Published: 29 Jun 2014 17:000 comments

The Newtownbutler Border Defenders’ Flute Band Parade due to take place in Newtownbutler next Friday evening, July 4 has had conditions imposed by the Parades Commission.

Having considered the factors, the Commission said it “has cause to believe that should the parade process the entirety of its notified route, there will be an adverse effect on community relations and a potential for public disorder. It therefore takes the view that, on this occasion, it would be appropriate to place restrictions on the parade route, and to place other restrictions on the parade.”

A spokesperson for Newtownbutler Border Defenders’ Flute Band said they are disappointed with the determination. “We have to accept the decision, we are disappointed,” he said, adding that it means they are restricted to the outskirts of the village.

The parade is being met with opposition from the Newtownbutler Area Residents’ Association. Its spokesperson Thomas O’Reilly, speaking this week, said: “Here we are again in 2014 and another year gone by without any negotiations despite N.A.R.A. wishing to engage in negotiations.”

He claimed: “It has been some three years since Border Defenders members of the band were present at a public meeting in the Community Centre in Newtownbutler”. The meeting was chaired by Mr. O’Reilly, who claimed that “100 per cent of the Nationalist people there indicated that this was an unwanted parade in the village and despite that no negotiations have happened and the Border Defenders this year have filed for up to 43 bands and 500 participants to descend on the small Nationalist village.”

Mr. O’Reilly believes: “This is going to once again cause disruption to the local community; it would set back once again community relations, not to mention the cost of Policing this parade. And we all know how stretched Policing budgets are. Money would be better spent on the type of policing we all want to see tackling rural crime, anti-social behaviour and so on.”

He made the point that there is a lot of people “doing good work in the field of community relations”. They are “working very hard and being recognised by funders who are willing to fund that work to try to improve community relations,” he commented.

“As a result of no negotiations on this parade, we are asking people to come out and protest against this parade and meet at the parish hall at Newtownbutler at 7.30 p.m. on Friday evening (July 4).”

The Newtownbutler Border Defenders’ Flute Band spokesperson said that Newtownbutler is “a shared space.” He claimed “that there are at least three Republican parades on an annual basis in Newtownbutler which proceed unhindered. We would like to see the same level of tolerance and respect with regard to our parade.”

Speaking on Tuesday, he expressed the view: “On a day when the Queen is meeting Martin McGuinness on the one hand we see Republicans trying to move forward in terms of their public perception. However the reality on the ground is somewhat different.”

He believes: “Republicans oppose the presence of unionists expressing their culture and heritage in border towns and villages.”

In reference to the NI Parades Commission’s determination, he expressed disappointment. “We have to accept the decision, we are disappointed,” he said.

He feels that “the Parades Commission have bowed to the demands of Republicans. It is a missed opportunity for the business community of Newtownbutler to benefit financially from visitors to the village”.

Meanwhile, the Parades Commission, in background to its determination noted it is aware that there are sensitivities associated with parading in Newtownbutler. The parade is notified to include approximately 500 participants and 15 to 20 accompanying bands.

The Commission also noted that the organiser has on this occasion notified for all participating bands to assemble at, and process from, Church Lane off High Street, along High Street and on to the Drumcru Road. The parade is then notified to return back along the same route, dispersing at Church Lane at 9.30pm. The Commission said it has received a notified protest by the Newtownbutler Areas Residents’ Association in relation to this parade.

It records: “The Commission is aware of tensions at this band parade in recent years, and that issues surrounding local parading remain to be resolved.”

Having considered the factors which obtain in relation to the parade on this occasion, the Commission said it ‘has cause to believe that should the parade process the entirety of its notified route, there will be an adverse effect on community relations and a potential for public disorder. It said: “It therefore takes the view that, on this occasion, it would be appropriate to place restrictions on the parade route, and to place other conditions on the parade.”

The determination conditions include: “Participants and supporters in the parade shall assemble and disperse on the Drumcru Road beyond a point 80 metres from the white line marking the end of Drumcru Road at the mini-roundabout located at the junction of High Street, Main Street and Bridge Street.”

It said: “Parade participants and supporters shall proceed directly without stoppages or delays to the assembly point at the start of the parade, and shall disperse promptly at the end of the parade. The parade organiser shall ensure that the parade finishes promptly at 10.15pm.”

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