THE annual Newtownbutler Border Defenders’ Flute Band Parade went off without incident on Friday evening despite the event again being met with opposition from within the local community.
The Newtownbutler Area Residents’ Association has protested against the parade for the best part of 20 years and again displayed placards voicing their discontent at the march, which goes through the predominantly nationalist village.
A Newtownbutler Border Defenders band spokesman reflected on a ‘very successful event’.
“We had 12 bands in attendance, 10 of which were local from Fermanagh, including Feaugh Pipe Band and Rosslea Accordion Band, plus two visiting bands from County Armagh and County Down. The importance of the parade as a fundraising initiative is demonstrated by the fact over £2000 was collected on the evening.”
The flute band have called on the residents’ association to call off their protests for next year stating the benefits the parade can bring to the village.
“What we’re saying is that it is time for the Sinn Fein led residents group to demonstrate they are committed to the principles of equality and respect by calling of their protests and opposition to our parade.”
The band spokesman told the Herald the group provides a ‘focal point’ for local youth in the area, with 12 learner members between the age of 8 and 14 involved regularly.
“We feel this demonstrates our commitment to developing the musical skills of our young people and we’re trying to challenge the resident’s association. What is the basis of their opposition?”
However local councillor and secretary of the Newtownbutler Area Resident’s Association Thomas O’Reilly explained “everything went off fairly with no problems anywhere”, but stated his wish that the two opposing parties sit down and reach a resolution.
“My biggest thought is that it is a problem we still have to stand on the street in 2014 when we would prefer to sit down and discuss matters.
“The bottom line is that the people unanimously decided at a public meeting three years ago that it is an unwanted march, but that doesn’t stop us sitting down at a table and discussing it.
“It is contentious and the vast majority don’t want it. It is about sitting down and negotiating to find some form of resolution to it.”
Mr O’Reilly insisted the group would remain steadfast in their opposition to the parade and stated that position would only change if the Border Defenders showed some respect to the people who live in the village.
“There has to be some sort of recognition as Newtownbutler is now a 99% nationalist town. You look at the cost involved in policing the Friday night parade, Sunday night parade and then again there is going to be a Saturday morning parade again and two more in August.
“Police resources are tied up dealing with that when sit down talks working out a solution is the way forward.”