Somme parade restrictions row

The Co. Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge has condemned restrictions placed on Killowen LOL 930’s annual Somme Parade in Coleraine, this Friday.

East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell also hit out at the Parades Commission decision.

A statement from the Co. Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge said: “Over the last two years parade organisers within Coleraine have worked extremely hard and have taken ownership of their parades by providing extra marshals for every parade (40+ in some cases) in a concerted effort to return parading in the town and specifically the Battle of the Somme Parade in July to normal. The Parades Commission by their decision is preventing this area returning to normality.

“The Protestant community in Coleraine is frustrated that yet again an unelected, unrepresentative body has again made an ill-advised determination in a bid to placate a small group of people, who have nothing to offer society other than heartache.

“Protestants living in the Heights area feel besieged by this small group and have concerns as to the impartiality of the local PSNI in regards to how they deal with the two communities living in this area.”

The statement went on: “Despite numerous complaints to the PSNI concerning intimidation, assaults and other anti-social behaviour nothing seems to be done with this group.

“Many young men from Coleraine and District lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, the Second World war and more recently in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This parade has been going for decades now and there has never been any trouble associated with it.

“However last year a group of protestors shouted sectarian abuse at the parade participants in the presence of members of the Parades Commission, independent monitors and the PSNI. No action was taken about the illegal protest or the behavior of those taking part.

“We would appeal to the Protestant community to come out and support the Orangemen from Killowen Purple Heroes LOL 930, the members of Coleraine and Macosquin Districts as they remember the sacrifice made by so many young men and women so that we can enjoy the freedom they gave their lives for.

“We would appeal to all those in the parade and to all spectators not to do anything which would bring discredit or disgrace upon our annual commemoration parade.

“We appeal especially to young people not to allow themselves to be drawn into any situation that would cause conflict, nor should they follow as part of the parade behind the bands or lodges. We would further remind all supporters that there should be no alcohol carried in or near the parade route.

“In addition we would appeal to everyone to follow explicitly the instructions of parade marshals and the PSNI when directed to do so.

“This is an occasion when we pay respect and remember all those members of this community who left these shores in the Great War and other recent theatres of war and who did not return.”

Opposing the Parades Commission restriction, MP Gregory Campbell added: “There have been no major incidents in connection with the parade over the years, and the responsible and positive leadership shown by both this Lodge and Coleraine bands in recent times should have been reciprocated by the Parades Commission by allowing the Killowen LOL 930 proposed outward route to proceed as normal.”