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Controversial band to take part in Rasharkin parade

Rasharkin has been at the centre of a long-running parades dispute. Picture Matt Bohill
Connla Young

A loyalist band which was previously banned from a controversial Co Antrim parade will be allowed to take part this year.

Dervock Young Defenders are listed among participants in a disputed march through the mainly nationalist village of Rasharkin next weekend.

The Parades Commission has placed several restrictions on the event including limiting the number of bands to 25.

Only a single drum beat can be played on part of the route between Orangefield Place and 35C Main Street and it must disperse no later than 9pm.

Restrictions have also been placed on the display of paramilitary trappings or symbols during the August 18 parade.

The march has been organised by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors and is described as a “main fundraiser and traditional annual parade and competition”.

Two nationalist groups, Rasharkin Residents' Collective and Rasharkin Residents' Association, have both given permission to hold separate protests involving up to 50 people on the village's Main Street.

Rasharkin has been at the centre of a long-running parades dispute.

Dervock Young Defenders were caught up in controversy last year when members were involved in a verbal exchange with Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Padraig McShane during a Twelfth parade in Ballycastle.

The Parades Commission later ruled that the band would not be allowed to take part in the August march.

In a hard-hitting determination, it said it received information and evidence about the “band's perceived provocative conduct on that day (July 12) included wearing face masks, drunkenness and rowdy and antagonistic behaviour”.

The commission said strict conditions imposed on the parade in previous years are still required but “it has also considered it necessary and proportionate to mitigate heightened community tensions by excluding from the parade the Dervock flute band".

Asked about this year's march, a spokesman for the Parades Commission last night said “it considers each parade on its own facts and own its own merits”.

“The commission considered representations received from all of the parties, and all other information and evidence available, including its understanding of the history of the parade, and the parades impacts on the community in Rasharkin,” he said.

A solicitor for Rasharkin Residents Collective, Michael Brentnall, said he has been instructed by a village resident “to seek a review of the determination on a number of grounds”.

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