Parades Commission gives approval for annual parade involving 17 bands

The Parades Commission has approved an annual event in Markethill on Friday evening that will include 17 bands.

Placards citing Thomas Paine gathers at a rally against the Irish Sea customs border in Markethill on May 5, 2021.

The annual parade, organised by Kilcluney Volunteers Flute Band, sees a wide range of bands invited to proceed through the town.

Current covid restrictions allow a maximum of 500 participants in outdoor events, and organisers have told the commission they expect 500 to take part.

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There have been tensions between bands and police in Markethill in recent months with a range of notified and unnotified parades taking place in the town, mainly in protest at the NI Protocol and ‘two-tier policing’.

Police had previously used megaphones to warn participants to disband because they were in breach of covid and/or parading legislation.

Friday’s parade - on paper - appears to confirm to current legal requirements in both areas.

However one source close to the organisers said there is still friction with police.

“Police are just trying to exert their authority without any objective parameters,” he said.

“There are plans for 20 bands to attend but the police have said - no more than 17. But where are they getting the figure 17 from? We cannot get any explanation.

“We are hearing similar reports from across NI, that different standards are being enforced in different places.”

The PSNI was invited to respond.

Last month the PSNI hand delivered at least 14 letters to individuals in Markethill. The letters told recipients they were suspected of having taken part in parades which breached parading and/or Covid regulations and urged them to present themselves to police to explain themselves - or that a file would be passed to the Public Prosecution Service.

A source said yesterday that no recipients of letters have contacted the PSNI.

Police said they are aware of an annual notified parade planned for Markethill this Friday evening, 4 June.

Chief Inspector Barney O’Connor said: “Police have engaged with the organisers and we understand from them and the notification provided to the Parades Commission that 17 bands will be taking part.

“We would urge anyone planning to take part in this event to be safe by being mindful of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.

“We will continue to work with organisers, to ensure everyone’s safety with an appropriate and proportionate policing plan in place.”

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