THE SDLP’ South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Rowallene Down District Councillor Maria McCarthy along with Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard have spoken out strongly challenging the parade organizers and participants of a march in Killyeagh after violence sparked up.
Around 45 band members and followers of the Apprentice Boys of Derry Killyleagh Branch in the feeder parade were passing the Central Bar when trouble flared.
Ms Ritchie said: “The vast majority of the people of Killyleagh totally reject that form of sectarianism manifesting itself in an attack on not only the Central Bar, but also the police, the community and the area – an area that is in ongoing need of regeneration.
“I am seeking urgent meetings with the chairman of the Parades Commission and the local police commander to discuss how this kind of incident can be avoided in the future.
“In the meantime, I urge people to refrain from any action that would damage the sense of inclusion that has been the hallmark of Killyleagh in recent years.”
Councillor McCarthy added: “There is never an excuse for violence, damage to property or aggressive behaviour.
“It is an absolute shame and disgrace that a business in this town which is also a central employer, facing the same demands and struggles as many other businesses in this economic recession, has been attacked in this manner.
“Worryingly, this is the second time in recent months there has been trouble in Killyleagh following loyalist band parades.
“I have made urgent representations to the Parades Commission demanding they review the authorisation and policing of parades in Killyleagh, given the escalating violence and anti social behaviour now being associated with these parades.
“The community of Killyleagh will not stand over this type of behaviour. Killyleagh is a town where we want to see businesses thrive, welcome tourists and for communities to live in peace, not make headline news for violence.”
Hazzard Says Walker’s Comments are a ‘Disgrace’.
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has branded DUP Councillor William Walker’s comment over incident in Killyleagh involving Unionist supporters of the Apprentice Boys as “a disgrace”.
Mr Hazzard said: “Councillor William Walker needs to explain why Nationalists should remain hemmed in their local pub or homes, while Apprentice Boys and their supporters pass by through in Killyleagh. His comments that people in the bar should have remained in the premises while Unionists were returning from an Apprentice Boys parade are a disgrace. As a public representative I would have credited Mr Walker with a bit more diligence and respect. This obviously is not the case.
“We are constantly told by the Apprentice Boys that their parade is a historical one free from sectarianism and that loads of nationalists come out to watch and enjoy the parade.
“Not only is this contrary to the experience of nationalist residents in small towns and villages across the North where feeder parades take place, but it’s also a contradiction from what Councillor Walker claims–Nationalists need to stay away out of sight.
“I can tell Councillor Walker that the days of ‘Croppies lying down’ are over, gone for good, and that Nationalists have a right to go about their normal life without fear of intimidation. This was an unprovoked attack on a bar simply because of the religion of the owner and Councillor Walker needs to explain how he can condone this sectarian attack.”
Walker Responds to Nationalist Criticism After March Incident
Councillor Billy Walker, Vice President of the Apprentice Boys of Derry Killyleagh Branch, said: “I was leading the parade in Killyleagh when this incident took place last Saturday. What actually happened needs to be clearly put on record.
“When the band was passing a bar in the town, some of the customers came out and sectarian abuse was hurled at the band members and others in the parade. One band member had his head seriously split open as an object was thrown at the band.
“I understand that one person from the bar was arrested for her involvement in calling out abuse. The police were involved in the scuffle that followed and let’s be clear about this, this incident would never have happened if there had been no abuse and one of our band members had not been injured.
“Those nationalist politicians commenting on this incident need to get their facts right. They were not even present at the time. I was. Margaret Ritchie MP and Chris Hazzard MLA are not political representatives in the Strangford area.
“This matter has been festering for some time. We do not believe that the local GAA have sponsored this violence. That is just nonsense. But there was an incident back in April when two men were caught relieving themselves in the RC Church car park as they returned from a band parade as there was no toilet in the vicinity. Equally when buses with Gaelic supporters returning from a match stopped outside the Methodist Church one night and the passengers relieved themselves, there was little said of that.
“Therefore, do these nationalist politicians also condemn this sort of behaviour and the attack on the parade members and the abuse hurled at them which provoked the incident last Saturday night?
“I understand at least two band members were quite badly hurt and needed hospital treatment. This should never have happened. The march should never have been provoked in the first place.”