Northern Ireland news

Parades Commission criticised over refusal to meet Rasharkin group

Chairman of Rasharkin Community Forum Sean Hanna wants the Parades Commission to attend a public meeting in the Co Antrim village
Connla Young

THE Parades Commission has been criticised over claims it refused to meet a newly-formed community group in a Co Antrim flashpoint.

Rasharkin Community Forum was set up after a local parading protest group dissolved last year.

That group, Rasharkin Residents Collective, had been at the centre of a parades dispute in the mainly nationalist village since 2011.

Some of those involved in the collective are now aligned to the recently established forum, which they say will focus on community work in the area.

Chair Sean Hanna said that there are 11 loyal order or loyalist parades through the village each year but that the annual Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band march, which is held in August, remains contentious.

Last year the Parades Commission placed several restrictions on the march but lifted a previous ban on music being played along a section of the route.

Mr Hanna said the Parades Commission had been invited to come to the village to explain its decision.

"That annoyed people and we are asking the commission to come out and explain the rationale," he said.

"The best they will consider is 10 people in a room not in Rasharkin, but they will not meet the people."

He said the possibility of a protest being organised to oppose the parade this year is high, but that the newly established forum will "not be leading that".

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said it "engages regularly with all sections of the community in Rasharkin and will continue to do so in the months ahead".

"The Commission has appointed an independent mediator to facilitate dialogue within Rasharkin on parading issues with a view to securing a local accommodation in advance of the parading season," he added.

Mr Hanna, who also accused unionists of lacking leadership, said the forum will continue to try and talk to people as well as build up the infrastructure of the village.

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