Northern Ireland

Fr Martin Magill complains to Parades Commission after female parishioner 'verbally abused' at republican parade

Fr Martin Magill is the parish priest of St John the Evangelist on the Falls Road in Belfast. Picture Mal McCann.
Fr Martin Magill is the parish priest of St John the Evangelist on the Falls Road in Belfast. Picture Mal McCann.

A HIGH-PROFILE priest has complained to the Parades Commission after one of his elderly parishioners was verbally abused by a bandsman at a republican Easter parade in west Belfast.

Fr Martin Magill said he contacted the commission following the altercation outside noon Mass at St John's Church on the Falls Road on Easter Sunday.

The woman, in her late seventies, asked a man taking part in the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) parade if the bands could stop playing as they passed the church.

"To his credit, the man in question began to approach members of the band with the request and some of them stopped playing," Fr Magill wrote on Twitter.

"One bandsman did not and instead verbally abused the parishioner, a woman in her late seventies.

"She was particularly distressed by his frequent use of the name of Jesus amongst the profanities he used to her.

"Owing to the lack of respect shown by this bandsman I have emailed the Parades Commission to make them aware of this incident."

The parade, which included three bands from Derry, Glasgow and Dungiven, was organised by the IRSP, which has links to the INLA, to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

It is understood that the bandsman was not part of an IRSP band.

Several masked men and women in paramilitary-style uniform took part in the parade between Dunville Park and Milltown Cemetery.

A spokesman for the IRSP said it will meet Fr Magill and his parishioner within the next few days but did not want to comment further before the meeting.

However, the Belfast IRSP responded to Fr Magill on Twitter.

"For 50 years we have marched the road on Easter Sunday at the same time and it has never been raised an issue before," Belfast IRSP tweeted.

"When organisers were made aware the bands began a single drum beat.

"That being said, if in future this conflicts again, it will be a single drum beat."

Fr Magill said he did not want to comment ahead of the meeting.

The priest is a well-known advocate for reconciliation.

His address at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee in St Anne’s Cathedral three years ago prompted a standing ovation.

It was credited with helping to re-start talks which led to the resumption of power-sharing at Stormont in 2020.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said no one should wear masks during the Easter Rising commemorations.

"Celebrating our patriot dead should be done with openness, pride, and with respect," he said.