Orange Order plans for St Patrick's Day march with band honouring loyalist linked to triple murder is 'insult to victims'

Nineteen-year-old Eileen Duffy, who was gunned down by loyalists at a mobile sweet shop in Craigavon in 1991.
Paul Ainsworth

THE Orange Order has been urged to ban a flute band honouring a loyalist convicted over a notorious triple sectarian murder from marching in a St Patrick’s Day parade.

A move to include the Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band in an Orange parade to be held in Lisburn has been branded an “insult to victims” .

Noel Clarke was jailed for five years in 1992 for his part in the murder of Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (17) and Brian Frizzell (29), who were gunned down at a mobile sweet shop in Craigavon’s Drumbeg estate.

The 1991 atrocity was linked to the UVF gang headed by Billy Wright, and after initially being charged with murder, Clarke was later charged with hijacking the van used by the killers.

Clarke was found dead at his Lisburn home in 2012. The flute band set up in his honour pay tribute to a man they describe as a “soldier”, using the UVF motto “FGAU” (For God and Ulster) on a social media page.

The band has also taken part in marches to celebrate loyalist killer Brian Robinson, who was shot dead by the SAS in north Belfast in 1989 shortly after murdering a Catholic man, and Antrim UVF “volunteer” Denver Smith, killed in a machete attack on New Year’s Eve, 1999.

Speaking to the Irish News, secretary of the Bateson’s True Blue lodge, John Millar, said raising Clarke's past had “no real relevance”.

“Everybody is welcome to attend this event, which is about bringing people together,” he said.

“There are parades that take place honouring IRA members, so it would be hypocritical to say anything about this parade. There were terrorists on both sides.”

According to a letter to the band from the lodge, the march has been organised to counter traditional celebrations of St Patrick, in which “the streets are filled with shamrocks and tricolours”.

Organisers also say they want to highlight the message that St Patrick was “not Irish, but a British saint, born and bred”.

However SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney, said the inclusion of such a band “flies in the face” of the idea of a shared community in Lisburn.

“This is an insult to the victims of these terrible murders,” Mr Catney said.

“We must all work to ensure there is a space for respectful celebration of culture and tradition, not only in Lisburn, but across Northern Ireland.

“There is a positive accommodation to be struck between people of a unionist background, a nationalist background and others. But a band named after someone associated with the sectarian murder of three people, two of them teenagers, flies in the face of the shared community that we’re working hard to build.”

The MLA added: “What message does this send to the family of Eileen Duffy, Katrina Rennie and Brian Frizzell?

“What message does it send to young people in this city, that someone involved in their murder should be celebrated?

"I am calling on the organisers of this parade to urgently reconsider involving this band. I am hopeful that this can be resolved locally with respect for everyone in our community.”

Responding to the criticism, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said: “The engagement of bands is a matter for local lodges and as such we were unaware of the decision of the organisers to engage this particular band.”

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