23 May 2006

Council spend on RIR band criticised

Daily Ireland

By Ciarán Barnes

A Co Antrim council has been criticised after it emerged it has paid a British army band more than £12,000 (€17,600) to perform at ceremonies during the past year.
The soon-to-be-disbanded Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) band played outside Lisburn City Council offices for the final time last Friday.
Council payments to the band during the last year total £12,788 (€18,776).
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler has criticised the spend.
He said ratepayers are relieved that this is the final time public cash will be used to pay the band to perform.
“This event is insensitive and insults the nationalist population of Lisburn,” said Mr Butler.
“The band should not be playing outside the council offices. Lisburn should be inclusive and the council offices should be a site all sections of the community can identify with.”
Mr Butler said the RIR is considered a sectarian force by nationalists.
He added: “Lisburn council’s endorsement of this display by the RIR will do nothing to promote good relations in the Lisburn area.
“Nationalists in Lisburn are being asked to pay rates for to allow a discredited force to perform what is essentially a sectarian ceremony.”
A spokeswoman for Lisburn city council said it offers a diverse programme of events and activities across the city to suit a wide range of tastes. “The Beating Retreat Ceremony, undertaken by freemen of the city and the RIR, has become a firm favourite of many in recent years,” said the spokeswoman.
“This was borne out by the large audiences that came to Lagan Valley Island to watch the proceedings despite the inclement weather last Friday evening.”

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