News Letter
19 March 2012

ORGANISERS of a loyalist band parade in Armagh on St Patrick’s Day have hailed the event as a “great triumph for tolerance and respect”.

More than 40 bands participated in the procession – hosted by Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band – through the historic city on Saturday evening.

The march, which took place on the same day as a separate council-run St Patrick’s parade, was given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission despite objections from nationalists and republicans.

As a conciliatory gesture, Cormeen members, who held face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein and the SDLP last week, opted not to participate in their own parade and instead helped marshall the event.

Amid a heavy police presence the parade passed off peacefully after an earlier security alert.

Band spokesman Quincey Dougan hailed the march, aimed at allowing the unionist community to express their own association with the patron saint, and revealed plans are under way for a similar parade next year.

Thanking all those who contributed to making the procession a success, Mr Dougan described the evening as a “great display of music and colour”.

Among the 43 bands taking part were Carnagh Accordion, South Down Defenders, Blackskull Orange and Blue and the Enniskillen Fusiliers. The Kilcluney Volunteers from Markethill and Drumderg Loyalists, Keady, both had big turnouts with more than 100 members on parade.

Mr Dougan said: “The band would very forcefully refute those who claim that the evening event was responsible for a negative effect on other festivities during the day.

“As planned, the evening parade took place over three hours after all other city centre events had finished, with the sole disruption a direct result of those who have been making dire predictions and veiled threats of widescale public disorder.”

He added: “The night has been a great triumph for tolerance and respect. The majority of people recognise the positive aspects of the unionist community celebrating the life and legacy of Patrick, and appreciate the importance of ensuring that exclusion of cultural expression is no longer an acceptable way forward.”

Unionist MLAs Danny Kennedy and William Irwin both paid tribute to the organisers of the parade and welcomed the event passing off without major incident.

Police said that two men, both aged 18, will appear in court next month charged with disorderly behaviour.