Northern Ireland news

Golf writer claims marching bands event during Open in Portrush 'horrendously embarrassing'

Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Co Antrim, where The Open will be staged. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Brendan Hughes

A marching bands event to be held during the British Open in Portrush looks "horrendously embarrassing", a prominent golf writer has claimed.

The 'Celebration of Marching Bands' is being staged in the seaside town on July 20, replacing an annual parade due to a clash with The Open golf championship.

Organised by Portrush Sons of Ulster, it will involve several marching bands performing a three-hour outdoor concert and a small return parade to an Orange hall.

The "compromise" follows "months of talks" with public bodies and Open organisers the R&A, Portrush Sons of Ulster said in a post online.

It cited concerns about parking during the golf championship.

"As much as we would rather have our annual parade go ahead as normal, it is simply not possible this year. Now, we must use this opportunity to show all those who will be visiting for The Open what our culture is all about."

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But Ewan Murray, golf correspondent for the Guardian and Observer newspapers, expressed concern about the planned event.

"There is naturally a comedic, ludicrous undertone to this in 2019 but when placed on the Open's doorstep it is a horrendously embarrassing look," he wrote in an article.

Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning at last month's launch of a Twelfth leaflet ahead of the Open golf tournament in Portrush, encouraging visitors to watch the parades

"American guests will probably look on with intrigue. What, though, of the thousands of Open fans from the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland?"

He added: "Twenty-one years on from the Good Friday Agreement, loyalists still mark William of Orange's Boyne victory with anthems and bonfires, many of the latter featuring tricolour flags or effigies of the Pope. This is about as far from an epitome of social inclusion as you could find."

Mr Murray also questioned the R&A's apparent involvement in discussions about the marching bands event.

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However, he noted that the Parades Commission has not received any objections and police "are similarly relaxed, albeit their response to questions focused solely on logistics".

In a statement, Iain Carlisle, chief executive of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, hit back at the remarks.

Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning at last month's launch of a Twelfth leaflet ahead of the Open golf tournament in Portrush, encouraging visitors to watch the parades

"Whilst the event in Portrush has not been organised by the Orange Institution, we commend the local band for their willingness to adapt their annual event in order to not only minimise disruption, but also to allow visitors to enjoy some of the very best local bands in an open-air concert environment," he said.

"Marching bands are an important integral aspect of the musical life of Northern Ireland. As such, they are very much part of the authentic, cultural offering that visitors can experience here.

"It is unfortunate that the Guardian piece fails to recognise the positivity around this event but instead uses sensationalist language in order to denigrate a community which actively engages over 20,000 people in community-centred musical activity."

Last month, the Orange Order launched a leaflet inviting those attending the 148th Open Golf Championship to "Enjoy the Orange.. and the greens" by attending its annual parades across Northern Ireland.

Iain Carlisle, chief executive of the Orange Order

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