Call for unionists to unite as more bands threaten to boycott Apprentice Boys of Derry

The head of the parade passes along the city walls. DER3319-119KM
The head of the parade passes along the city walls. DER3319-119KM

The head of the Apprentice Boys of Derry has urged unionists to “come together”, after more loyalist bands vowed to boycott the association.

It comes after a row broke out at a parade in Londonderry on Saturday when a visiting flute band wore shirts with a Parachute Regiment emblem and the letter ‘F’ – in support of a former soldier facing murder charges over the deaths of two men on Bloody Sunday.

Police flanked Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band and a large contingent of PSNI Land Rovers later stopped the band’s bus on its way home, with officers recording the names of some members.

In a statement on Tuesday, Governor Graeme Stenhouse said the Apprentice Boys recognise the potential upset caused to nationalists by the emblem worn by the band.

He added that the association had no prior knowledge of the uniform worn by Clyde Valley.

Representatives of the ABOD are due to meet with members of Clyde Valley on Thursday night to discuss the matter.

As reported by the News Letter on Wednesday, Mr Stenhouse’s remarks resulted in several loyalist bands threatening to cut ties with the ABOD in a show of solidarity with Clyde Valley.

Cloughfern Young Conquerors, Rathcoole Protestant Boys, both from Newtownabbey, and Dundonald-based Pride of Ballybeen Flute Band all said they would boycott future ABOD demonstrations.

Cairncastle Flute Band has now also weighed in and said it is withdrawing support for the association, stating: “It is our view that in demonstrating a visual symbol in support of the injustice faced by soldier F and indeed many of the servicemen tasked to serve Queen and country in the Northern Ireland conflict, the Clyde Valley Flute Band have broken no laws, and have not incited violence or sectarianism.”

Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Stenhouse urged unionists not to “fight among themselves”.

He added: “I would call on all participating bands and unionists in general to come together. I want to reiterate that we did not blame the band, and we did not say they did anything wrong.”

Clyde Valley FB plans to hold a rally and parade in Larne on October 5 in response the actions of police, and has invited members of the Apprentice Boys to take part.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party believes last week was “not a good week for policing” in NI, and compared the PSNI’s handling of the parade in Londonderry to a republican parade in Strabane the previous weekend.

During the Strabane National Hunger Strike Commemoration, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson announced during a speech that “Britain’s days in Ireland are numbered” and shouted the IRA slogan ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’.

This was followed by the decision of the PSNI to pull out of Belfast’s New Lodge area during disorder linked to an anti-internment bonfire.