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Orange Order accused of ignoring parade plea

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

The Parades Commission has been accused of ignoring residents of a Co Antrim village who signed a petition calling for a ban on marches past their homes.

Rasharkin resident John McTaggart said he lives in a cul-de-sac in the Sunnyside estate which has more than 80 residents and is at least 80% Catholic.

"Every year the different loyal orders in the area take turns at coming off the main road and parading through the estate," he said.

"In more recent times we have had to witness a band brought in from Ballymena to march up and down this cul-de-sac playing The Sash.

"This July a band paraded through the estate without having applied to do so and the Orange hall here in the village was attacked – both these incidents were wrong and unjustifiable."

Mr McTaggart said the majority of residents had signed a petition calling for all parades to be banned from the area.

"This has seemingly fallen on deaf ears and has gotten to the stage now where the Parades Commission did not even bother to contact the local residents' association to consult them on this year's July 12 parade which brings three bands into the estate," he said.

"If the Parades Commission has any wish to uphold community relations in Rasharkin they should ensure that loyal order parades stay to the main road and do not go into sensitive area like this.

"None of the loyal orders have ever consulted the residents of this estate to ascertain our views and to date refuse to engage in dialogue to resolve this issue."

Mr McTaggart said the commission should not be reluctant to make determinations out of any fear of affecting overall "performance records" for successfully resolving contentious marches.

"What they are doing is remarkably short-sighted and unless they take a tough stance against those who refuse to engage in dialogue these problems will only fester and worsen over time," he claimed.

A Parades Commission spokesman denied that it was ignoring the views of residents.

"The commission hopes to initiate and facilitate dialogue throughout north Antrim as a whole but in Rasharkin in particular," he said.

"Our representatives are active on the ground and will continue to be so for as along as is necessary."

July 28, 2007

This article appeared first in the July 27, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

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