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27 August 2009 Edition

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Loyalist triumphalism in Rasharkin

UVF band regalia: These parades are nothing more than a celebration of unionist paramilitarism

UVF band regalia: These parades are nothing more than a celebration of unionist paramilitarism

By Peadar Whelan

Rasharkin is a small predominantly nationalist village in the heart of County Antrim that became the venue for a Nuremburg style rally last Friday night 21 August. 41 loyalist bands strutted along the village’s main street beating out their message with the venom of Aryans letting those they deem to be sub-human know who is the master race.
That this so-called band parade was allowed go ahead by the Parades Commission, with no restrictions, added to the sense of injustice and frustration that Antrim nationalists feel.
Before the march Sinn Féin’s Seán Murray, chair of the party’s Cúige Uladh, addressed the 130 nationalist protesters who unlike the loyalists were restricted in numbers and movement.
He told them to “be prepared to hear ‘The Sash’ 82 times”. It was a stab at humour in a highly charged atmosphere. However as band after band passed the protesters, corralled behind crush barriers, they beat their drums louder and blew harder on their flutes. The loyalists were only doing what we knew they would do.
They were flaunting their arrogant triumphalism through tunes that are steeped in the sectarianism of centuries. The names of the bands and their uniforms – styled mostly on old British Army dress uniforms – reflect a mindset that sees these loyalists ape British imperialism and its militarist culture. Crown Defenders, Rising Sons of Ulster, Loyal Sons of Ulster and the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerers are names that echo the pogroms of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The band regalia, honouring the UVF, should tell the Parades Commission that these so-called band parades are little more than a celebration of unionist paramilitarism. It may in some cases be dressed up in ‘Old UVF’ glories but the Freeman Memorial Band that was in Rasharkin on Friday is named in memory of UVF bomber Andrew Freeman who was killed in 1975 with three other UVF men.
The four died on the outskirts of Coleraine, when a bomb they were arming exploded. The UVF was responsible for killing 12 people on 2 October 1975, the day Freeman died. Most of them were Catholics or in the case of Irene Nicholson a Protestant who was killed in Killyleagh, County Down when the UVF attacked a Catholic-owned bar. On its website the band describes itself as, “a loyalist blood and thunder flute band”.
Speaking to An Phoblacht in the wake of Friday’s march North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay outlined how loyalists attending the parade attacked a number of Catholic-owned houses in the village as well as assaulting a Catholic man.
 Said McKay:
“Before the parade we warned the PSNI that supporters of the parade should not be allowed near Rhencullen Park or Churchfields after residents there were threatened by loyalists last year.
 “Unfortunately they did not hold supporters back and as a direct result a young man was assaulted toward the end of the procession. The PSNI also failed to stop loyalists damaging Catholic houses in Churchfields were they even knocked the bricks off garden walls.
 “Such intimidation and violence was bound to happen given the Parades Commission decision and this could have been avoided if the police had followed our advice and kept loyalists out of this area.
 “What we saw here last night was a large-scale attempt to intimidate Catholics in this village and the Parades Commission decision to accommodate this was disgusting.”

SECTARIAN: Loyalist band called after UVF bomber Andrew Freeman 



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