Castlederg event needs full investigation

No section of our divided society has a monopoly on sectarianism, and it is a sad reality that both nationalists and unionists have been responsible for unacceptable and offensive behaviour in the recent past.

It is clear that the authorities have a particular responsibility to carry out a detailed investigation when public money is linked to events which descend into crude and provocative displays.

There can only be deep concern about what followed the decision of Derry City and Strabane district council to allocate £5,000 of what was officially described as `good relations funding' to a concert in the Co Tyrone town of Castlederg last month.

It was supposed to be a festival with a funfair and a range of entertainments, but was instead according to councillors turned into an occasion dominated by sectarian chanting and what was described as commentary about Protestants selling land to `Fenians.'

The songs performed at the council-maintained venue were said to be highly partisan and included not only The Sash but also The Billy Boys, with its notorious references to individuals who were` up to their knees in Fenian blood'.

A meeting of the council last week was told that officers had been asked to fully review the circumstances before any money was paid to the organisers, the Castlederg Young Defenders Flute Band.

There should certainly be no question of grants to the band being confirmed either now or for the foreseeable future until all the facts are established and firm assurances offered about the supervision of any related gatherings.

It has been well documented that, during the worst days of the Troubles, many appalling murders took place in and around the Castlederg district in a way which had a dreadful and lasting impact on community relations.

Every killing was evil, bringing shame on the cause with which it was associated, and there can only be relief that the political progress epitomised by the partnership administration endorsed by all the main Stormont parties has brought us into a new era.

Tensions plainly remain in many areas, across Belfast, in a range of urban centres and along the border region, and it is essential that a fair, and balanced debate over reconciliation should be intensified on all sides.

Approving public money for civic initiatives which do not stand up to the closest of scrutiny cannot be allowed to form part of this vital process.