20 August 2005

Feud fears at Newry flute band march

Daily Ireland

By Connla Young

The mayor of Newry has moved to ease fears that the loyalist feud could spill onto the city’s streets. Newry and Mourne mayor Pat McGinn yesterday offered to meet the organisers of a loyalist parade scheduled to take place in Newry city next Friday.
Organised by the South Down Defenders Flute Band, the parade is expected to attract up to 2,000 participants and supporters as well as 40 bands affiliated to the Loyalist Volunteer Force and Ulster Volunteer Force.
Revelations that bands from both factions have been invited to take part in the parade have heightened anxiety that violence might flare between rival loyalists in the mainly nationalist city.
Daily Ireland has learned that Newry PSNI officers have expressed their “deep concern” at the paramilitary affiliation of some of the bands invited to take part in next Friday’s march.
It is understood that the PSNI is particularly concerned about the proposed attendance of several bands from the Mourne district.
A spokesperson for the Parades Commission last night confirmed that the PSNI’s concerns had not been passed on to the parades body during the determination process.
As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Ireland, Parades Commission chiefs have given the parade the go-ahead, although it has been banned from going past the city’s war memorial.
Mayor Pat McGinn said he was willing to meet loyalists from the south Down area to help ease local fears.
“I have been in touch with the Parades Commission to express my concern about this parade,” he said. “I made them aware that I am happy to meet the organisers of this parade in an effort help alleviate any concerns or fears people in Newry and Mourne might have.”
Sinn Féin councillor Charlie Casey said the parade would cause inconvenience for locals. “Newry and its community will be dominated by this type of sectarian bitterness for four to five hours and it is common knowledge that many of these bands had different allegiances to the various LVF and UVF factions involved in the ongoing feud,” he said.
Newry SDLP councillor Frank Feeley appealed for calm ahead of the parade.
“There would be a worry if these bands are taking part in the parade. They should not be allowed in. We have been given assurances in the past and I hope these still stand. Newry doesn’t want sectarian trouble or fights between loyalists,” he said. A PSNI spokesperson said the force was aware of the bands taking part in the parade.
“This parade will be policed accordingly,” said the representative.

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