Friday, August 17, 2007


Here they come again. A "parade" of over 1000 loyalists is set to march through the republican village of Rasharkin...again. Every year violence accompanies the march Why the Parades Commission continually agrees to this provocation is unclear to me, but it does.

A letter written to the Ballymena Times from a resident of the area summed up the disappointment over the Parades Commission this way:

SIR - I am writing to express my great disappointment that I have in the current Parades Commission and their failure to take the views of local residents into account in areas like my own.
I live in a small cul-de-sac in Rasharkin which has over 80 residents and which is well over 80% Catholic. Every year the different loyal orders in the area take turns at coming off the main road and parading through the estate.

In more recent times we have had to witness a band brought in from Ballymena to march up and down this cul-de-sac playing 'The Sash' and last year an incident took place in the estate involving parade supporters which is to go court shortly.

This July a band paraded through the estate without having applied to do so and the Orange Hall here in the village was attacked - both these incidents were wrong and unjust.

Local people living in the estate are fed up with this behaviour from the loyal orders and a petition was given to the Parades Commission signed by an overwhelming majority of residents living here, calling for no parades of any sort to be allowed to come through the estate.

This has seemingly fallen on deaf ears and has gotten to the stage where the Parades Commission did not even bother to contact the local residents association to consult them on this year's Twelfth parade, which brought three bands into the estate.

If the Parades Commission has any wish to uphold community relations in Rasharkin they should ensure that loyal order parades stay to the main road, and do not go into sensitive areas like this. None of the loyal orders have ever consulted the residents of this estate to ascertain our views and to date refuse to engage in dialogue to resolve this issue.

When bands go out to play and the loyal orders march they do so to appeal to a certain audience. There is clearly no such audience in a small cul-de-sac as this and residents therefore see these parades as nothing more than a sectarian coat-trailing exercise, especially since the parade organisers won't talk to residents.

It seems that the Parades Commission will not place determinations on parades like this as they think that the less determinations they place the better their 'performance record'.

This therefore is put before the rights of residents to live free from sectarian harassment.

What they are doing is remarkably short-sighted and unless they take a tough stance against those who refuse to engage in dialogue these problems will only fester and worsen over time.

-Yours faithfully,

Rasharkin resident

The following comes from North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay.

Catholic residents move out as loyalists take over Rasharkin for night

The Parades Commission has agreed to allow over 1,000 loyalists to assemble in the nationalist village of Rasharkin tonight which will result in many Catholic families being forced to leave their homes for the evening. The Parades Commission has put no restrictions on the parade which has been passed to include 40 bands and well over 1,000 loyalist supporters.

This year many residents are again being forced to leave their homes, especially in the wake of some of the intimidation that occurred in the village last year.
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said this morning:

"This is a totally unacceptable situation. The violent actions of loyalists at this parade in the past three years, including an assault on a Catholic woman, the burning of tricolours on the street and a litany of sectarian incidents have clearly been ignored to the amazement of local residents.

"The Parades Commission has decided not to put in place any legally binding code of conduct which would have meant that loyalists taking part in this parade could be brought to book for sectarian behaviour and intimidation. It is clear that loyalist paramilitaries are involved, indeed some of the bands are quite open about their connections with both the UDA and UVF.

“People here are disgusted that the Parades Commission has refused to view evidence of how the Pride of The Maine band broke the law on numerous occasions at a parade in Rasharkin last week, and that there will be no restrictions or deterrents to stop this band coming through the village and doing the same thing again tonight.

"There is no doubt that this Parades Commission decision has not taken into account the right of residents to live free from sectarian harassment and the question has to be asked why Rasharkin is being treated differently by the Parades Commission than other areas in the north. It is bizarre that the Parades Commission’s advice and code of conduct has been broken by parade participants for the past three consecutive years but they still refuse to do anything about it."

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