The Parades Commission attended a robust meeting in Limavady recently where they heard of concerns about the number of parades in the town, and the continuing controversy surrounding the national hungerstrike commemoration in Dungiven last summer.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ after the packed and more than two-hour long meeting, Robin Percival of the Parades Commission said: “We had a very good turnout in Limavady and what was pleasing was that we got representatives from both sides of the community. It’s clear there are parading issues in Limavady itself which need to be addressed, and obviously there are the ongoing discussions about Dungiven.”
Regarding Limavady, Mr. Percival said one representative was arguing there were too many parades in Limavady.
“We explained the Parades Commission is not about looking at the total number of parades, but we would argue particularly that representatives of both sides of the community talk to each other about parades, what are the problems, and how they can be, if you like, reconciled,” said Mr. Percival. “The issue here in Limavady seems to be the number of parades because I think there are roughly three bands associated with the town and they each have their own band parade, so if you put that on top of the Orange (Order), Apprentice Boys and Black Perceptory there could be, over a year, quite a lot, but these things can be resolved if these people talk to each other.”
With regards to the claims about the parade in Dungiven, Mr. Percival said: “To be fair it only caused issues because of what happened outside St. Patrick’s Church in Belfast. The point that I want to make, as a commissioner, is that Dungiven really didn’t come onto anybody’s radar until somebody, and I am not entirely certain who it was, posted the pictures on YouTube of the Kevin Lynch band playing by the republican memorial in Dungiven, which happens to be in close proximity to the church, and which was at a previous parade, and people are claiming this shows lack of parity in the way we treat unionist parades and republican parades. We would argue it doesn’t. There was no issue at all that the Kevin Lynch band was playing offensive music and, in fact, nobody has mentioned at all what music they were playing.”
Mr. Percival said anyone with concerns is justified in raising them with the Parades Commission. He also spoke about the issue of replica weapons used in the Dungiven parade.
“The PSNI was involved and gave the green light, but it’s not just republicans who use replica weapons. At the Covenant parade replica weapons were used, so people need to be careful raising issues which are seen as being one sided. If people want no replica weapons used that has to be all parades and not just ones you don’t like,” he said, adding: “All these issues need to be treated with care and sensitivity.”