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Loyalist flute band 'played Famine Song outside Catholic church' in Lisburn

The Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band is alleged to have played the tune of the Famine Song
Brendan Hughes

THE Parades Commission is reviewing a complaint that a loyalist flute band played the Famine Song outside a Catholic church in Lisburn.

It was alleged the Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band played the tune outside St Patrick's Church on Chapel Hill during a march through the city on Saturday evening.

Pat Catney, SDLP MLA for Lagan Valley, said he was contacted by several people who were leaving a service at the church when the incident happened.

He described the Famine Song as "deeply sectarian" and said it has caused "deep offence to those residing within their place of worship".

"The Noel Clarke Memorial Flute band should immediately explain why they felt the need to disrupt an evening Mass in the manner that they did," he said.

"It is no secret that the Famine Song is deeply sectarian, given it was judged as racist by a court in Scotland."

He added: "It is often said that the absence of conflict does not equate to peace. Saturday's events truly substantiates the fact that we have not yet achieved full peace here in Northern Ireland.

"It is vital that all of us, including marching bands, step up to the mark in trying to live in a manner that is respectful of all cultures and creeds."

Mr Catney said he plans to arrange a meeting with the Parades Commission to discuss the incident.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Parades Commission said it has received a complaint in relation to the march.

A spokesman said: "The commission is reviewing a complaint received today in relation to the Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band parade which was notified to take place in Lisburn on Saturday September 15 between 7pm and 8pm for 25-35 participants.

"The commission's guidelines state that when considering parades, the commission will take into account the extent to which participants complied with the code of conduct at previous parades.

"The code of conduct, which applies to all parades, states that when church services are taking place, no music shall be played."

The PSNI said it had not received any complaints in relation to the march.

The Famine Song, which contains anti-Irish lyrics, is played to the air of the Beach Boys hit Sloop John B.

It caused controversy in 2012 when Shankill Road-based band Young Conway Volunteers was filmed walking in circles while playing it outside St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street, Belfast.

The Famine Song caused controversy in 2012 when the Young Conway Volunteers were filmed playing it while walking in circles while outside St Patrick's Church in north Belfast

In 2009 appeal court judges in Scotland upheld a conviction against a Rangers fan who was prosecuted for singing the Famine Song.

The court was told the song was "racist" and "displays malice and ill-will towards people of Irish descent living in Scotland".

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