THERE are still no signs of a solution for what has traditionally been the most contentious parade of the marching season in the county.
The Newtownbutler Border Defender’s flute band parade takes place on Friday night in Newtownbutler.
The band are celebrating their 40th year, and expect 12 -14 bands to attend, but, a local residents group in the mainly nationalist village is set to protest against at the parade.
The view of Thomas O’Reilly, Sinn Fein councillor and member of Newtownbutler Residents Association is clear.
He claimed: “The band refuses to engage and unfortunately again we’re left in a situation where the parading is unresolved in the town. Unfortunately then, there is a protest called for on Friday
“Over the last sort of 20 years, off and on, there have been attempts to negotiate this out and all have failed. The people in the band want all that they want: Up and down the town and all the
rest of it.
“And they are not of the realisation that here is a 98% nationalist village and there has to be some way of negotiating this out and they’ve got to at some point sit down and do that.”
A spokesman for the Border Defenders band, who said that only a handful of the bands partaking will be from outside of the county, said that members have a right to ‘express their culture’.
There are 35 members of the band, and the spokesman claimed that there has been ‘no attempt to engage’ this year.
“In the past we have met directly with the residents group in order to attempt to get a resolution and they have demonstrated a complete unwillingness to resolve the issue and their starting point is no parade. So it’s very hard to negotiate a successful resolution when they don’t want a parade in the town.”
The spokesman also referred to an instance several weeks ago where a flute band was invited to play at the Newtownbutler Fleadh.
“There was no opposition or protest when they were playing there. And now a few weeks later there’s opposition and hostility towards the local band that’s actually from the town.”
While he conceded that the village was predominantly nationalist, he said that an ‘overwhelming’ number of Protestants living in the countryside should be allowed to use the village to express their culture.
“Protesters don’t want to recognise that Protestants have a desire to express their culture in the shared space of Newtownbutler and they want to oppose that in respect of our band.
“What I’m saying is that there should be the same respect and tolerance given to Newtownbutler Border Defender Flute Band as there is extended to any nationalist/republican parades that take place in the village.”
The parade starts from 8.30pm, while the protesters are set to gather at the parish hall from 8pm.
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