Northern Ireland news

Rasharkin parade group offers to end protest

Sean Hanna in Rasharkin village . picture Mark Marlow
Connla Young

A residents’ group in Co Antrim has said it will end a long-running protest if the Parades Commission restrict the route of a contentious loyalist march.

Rasharkin Residents' Collective (RRC) put their proposals to the Parades Commission this week ahead of a march organised by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band on August 17.

The group intends to hold a protest involving up to 50 people.

Collective spokesman Sean Hanna last night revealed that the RRC is set to be dissolved after next week’s parade regardless of what decision the commission comes to.

However, it is understood a new protest could emerge if required.

In previous years restrictions have been placed on the parade and paramilitary flags through the mainly nationalist village.

Mr Hanna said that the long-standing protest will be lifted if the loyalist parade is restricted to walking down the main thoroughfare through the village next week.

Parade organisers want to walk along Church Road and Main Street before turning onto a series of country roads and returning to the village via Glebe Road.

Residents claim the parade results in disruption to local people and businesses.

Last year nationalist residents offered to call off their protest if the parade was banned from Main Street.

However, the parade later went ahead although only 25 bands were allowed to take part and they were restricted to a single drumbeat along a stretch of the route.

They were also ordered to begin at 7pm and disperse no later than 9pm.

Mr Hanna said that this year the parade should end once it has cleared Main Street.

“The logic is that buses can come around the country roads and pick them up,” he said.

“The whole parade, instead of lasting two or three hours, would be over in one hour and the whole village would get back to normality.”

“That would scale down the policing operation and tension.”

Mr Hanna said he believed it was a “very reasonable proposal to make” and that it “mitigates against the worst effects of the parade”.

“We have offered that if they reroute them that way our protest becomes meaningless and we would call off our protest,” he said.

Mr Hanna revealed that the RRC will be dissolved after next week’s parade regardless of the decision reached.

“Rasharkin Residents’ Collective is disappearing after (next) Friday night, we are morphing into a full community group,” he said.

“We have worked on projects this year that have brought £200,000 into Rasharkin.

“We just see this parade as a major threat to the well-being and economy of the village.”

A second residents group, Rasharkin Residents’ Association, also plans to hold a protest involving up to 50 people.

The Parades Commission is expected to rule on the parade early next week.

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