Ballymaconnelly band postpone parade to avoid ‘right’s clash

The controversial Ballymaconnelly band parade in Rasharkin has been postponed by one week to avoid a clash with nationalist residents revealed plans to stage a civil rights demonstration on the same night.

Traditionally, Ballymaconnelly hold their parade in mid-August, but have now switched it by seven days to Friday, August 23 to avoid any issues with the residents.

The news was revealed last week by the band who will now await the outcome of an application to parade following consideration by the Parades Commission.

The nationalist residents’ group had asked for permission for 200 participants as well as 500 supporters at the event.

In response to that, Ballymaconnelly band members made the decision to change the parade night.

Mr Sean Hanna, a spokesman for Rasharkin Resident’s Collective, said if the band could change the date of the event why could it not be rerouted or changed.

A Ballymaconnelly spokesperson said they changed the date to avoid potential conflict.

He described Mr Hanna’s comments as unhelpful in the promotion of community relations in the village.

The parade has not been without controversy in the past and requires a huge operation by the security forces to ensure there is no disorder.

Two years ago, the then Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Ian Stevenson made a very public stand with the local Parish Priest, Fr. John Murray, in a bid to ease tension.

The pair stood shoulder to shoulder at one of the flashpoints and the result was a parade that passed off peacefully.

The North Antrim demonstration was held in Rasharkin on July 12 this year and there was no disorder; indeed all connected with the parade as well as the residents were roundly praised by the local Commander of H district, Chief Inspector Brenda Cairns. Organisers had changed the venue for the platform speeches.