TENSIONS RISE AHEAD OF PARADE
TENSIONS are mounting ahead of a contentious march in Rasharkin tomorrow night amid calls for loyalists to converge on the Co Antrim village. Nationalist politicians fear that violence could erupt if crowds of loyalist supporters gather in the mainly nationalist village.
TUV leader Jim Allister called on supporters to turn up ” in greater numbers than ever before ” after the Parades Commission restricted the march for the first time. SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan condemned Mr Allister’s comments as ” irresponsible “. The annual parade through Rasharkin normally attracts about 40 bands. Residents have staged large protests in previous years. The commission has permitted no more than 25 bands to take part. It criticised the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band for refusing to engage in talks with residents ‘ groups. Two nationalist residents ‘ groups still intend to hold demonstrations. North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey branded the commission a ” complete failure “. He said its decision was a reward for bigotry and a charter for intimidation. Mr Allister described the parades body’s ruling as a ” deliberate attempt ” to ” humiliate the Protestant community in Rasharkin “.
Tensions about the parade have threatened to spill over into violence in the past. In 2009 a petrol bomb was thrown at police as 41 bands marched through the village. The following year the parade was delayed by a bomb alert for more than two hours before being rerouted. Last year’s march passed off without incident. A woman’s car was burnt out in the village just hours after the commission’s determination. The car was attacked outside the woman’s home in the Churchfields area early on Wednesday. Police are investigating. It is understood that officers are looking at several lines of inquiry, including a possible sectarian motive. Sinn Fein North Antrim assembly member Daithi McKay said people in the village believe the attack was linked to ongoing tensions ahead of the parade. He strongly criticised Mr Allister’s ” unhelpful ” comments and said the politician was contributing to tensions. SDLP Ballymena councillor Declan O’Loan condemned Mr Allister’s comments as ” grossly irresponsible ” and called on him to withdraw them. ” I am amazed that any politician would stoke up tensions before this parade,” he said. DUP North Antrim assembly member Mervyn Storey said the restrictions rewarded ” a small group of unrepresentative republicans ” who had caused ” sectarian strife ” in the village He said some people who oppose the parade have caused ” confrontation with the police and the minority Protestant community in the village over the last number of years “. The parade has threatened to spill over into violence in the past.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : CLAIRE SIMPSON,IRISH NEWS.
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