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Apprentice Boys: Parade negotiator says he 'wouldn't have' band in Derry again

The Apprentice Boys said they “recognise this may have caused upset to many in the nationalist community”.

Derry, Northern Ireland
Derry, Northern Ireland
Image: Shutterstock/hecke61

Updated Wed 9:05 PM

A FLUTE BAND that paraded close to the scene of Bloody Sunday with a Parachute Regiment symbol and the letter “F” on the sleeves of their uniforms should not march in the city again, a parades negotiator has said. 

The BBC reported that Garvan O’Doherty said the Parachute Regiment insignia breached an agreement reached ahead of last weekend’s parade.

The symbol and letter reference Soldier F, the former British soldier facing charges over his role in the killings of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. The former soldier is due to appear in court in a few weeks’ time. 

The Antrim-based band were escorted by police through the city on the march and police then made efforts to identify members of the band involved.

Doherty, who has been involved in parade discussions for two decades, said he attended meetings with Bogside residents and Apprentice Boys in early June and early August, according to the BBC. 

“We all agreed at the meeting we didn’t want political or sectarian messages and we all agreed that we would do all that we can to make sure that didn’t take place,” Doherty said.

Clearly, this band slipped through, one band out of 145 chooses to cause a bit of turmoil. We can’t let the band ruin the process – we cannot let this process be derailed.

“I wouldn’t have them about the city anymore,” he said.  

Yesterday evening, the Apprentice Boys governor, Graeme Stenhouse, said the group had “no prior knowledge of the band’s uniform, or this incident, until the conclusion of the main parade on Bond Street”. 

“We recognise this may have caused upset to many in the nationalist community,” he said. 

Stenhouse said the parade should not be used “as a means to heighten tensions in a shared city”. 

He then denied claims that an agreement regarding symbols supporting the Parachute Regiment had been made prior to the march. 

“This agreement never took place. We would never place our marshals under such difficult circumstances,” Stenhouse said. 

He said they believe the actions of the police in dealing with the band was “heavy-handed”. 

“We will discuss this matter during future direct discussions with local police commanders,” he said. 

“A lot of hard work has been contributed towards ensuring peaceful parades over many years. We wish to continue with this constructive dialogue to ensure that goodwill and understanding prevails.” 

PSNI meetings

Yesterday, the PSNI met with political representatives in two separate meetings to discuss Saturday’s parade, which they described as “robust and constructive”. 

“We explained what police did and why. We also listened carefully to all the strong concerns that have been raised about how we carried out our actions,” PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said. 

“As with all our policing operations, there will be a full debrief of our actions on Saturday and we will learn any lessons that result from it,” he said. 

[The] discussions were helpful and reinforced the importance of dialogue in restoring the good will that has surrounded parades in Derry/Londonderry over many years.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Gregory Campbell MP this afternoon met with representatives from the Apprentice Boys. 

This meeting followed the DUP’s meeting with the PSNI yesterday.

“We remain of the view that last week was not a good week for policing across Northern Ireland given the republican parade in Strabane and the provocative rhetoric delivered in the apparent absence of any police presence,” the DUP said in a statement this evening. 

The party claimed there were “several dissident republican protests” in Derry “which did not come under the same police focus as one band taking part in the Apprentice Boys parade”. 

The actions of police in relation to such events must be justifiable in all cases so that the entire community can stand over and fully support what they do. All communities must be able to give their support to police and ensure there are no perceptions of differential actions across different events. 

The DUP noted that the Apprentice Boys have been engaged in a process of dialogue in the city with stakeholders.

The party said that, in light of recent events, the Apprentice Boys and others “continue to engage in those discussions in a manner that will bring about respect, accommodation and tolerance in the city and the wider region”. 

 

“We have always supported that process and we continue to support the Apprentice Boys in those efforts,” the DUP said. 

It is now important that space is given to reflect on all these events and that outcomes can be achieved that respect all our identities and cultures and are accommodated in a mature and respectful environment. 

Permitting the band to march displaying these symbols was criticised, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood seeking a meeting with the Apprentice Boys of Derry which organised the march that was attended by thousands. 

“It is a matter of profound regret that a band chose to march on the streets of this city displaying a motif of the Parachute Regiment on their uniform,” Eastwood said. “This has caused deep hurt and distress to many victims in Derry.”

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