Further Dungiven Parades controversy

The Hunger Striker Monument in Dungiven close to the Church of Ireland parish church. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
The Hunger Striker Monument in Dungiven close to the Church of Ireland parish church. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The Parades Commission has failed to place any restrictions on a republican band which unionists claim was involved in a parade featuring replica weapons.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell has accused the Parades Commission of failing to consult him about the decision.

He recently claimed that the Parades Commission is operating “double standards” in placing restrictions on loyalist parades in Belfast while not placing any restrictions on the Kevin Lynch Memorial Flute Band – named after a deceased INLA man.

“Unless the Parades Commission can give justification for these double standards this will be viewed as discrimination,” Mr Campbell said. The Parades Commission confirmed that no restrictions have been placed on the parade in Dungiven on November 17.

Mr Campbell said: “Over a period of several years I have raised with the Parades Commission the behaviour and nature of republican parades in the town, and in particular the actions of participants as they passed Protestant churches in the town, particularly in light of the commission’s decisions on loyalist parades which pass close to Roman Catholic churches.

“In response to this some parades commissioners have engaged in a campaign of misinformation with claims that no complaints had been received about parades in Dungiven.

“Responses I received from the commission to an earlier letter make it quite clear that serious concerns had been raised by me, but at least one member of the Parades Commission has sought to deny this on three separate occasions.”

The MP said he had once again raised his concerns with the commission about the Kevin Lynch Memorial Flute Band parade to take place in Dungiven on November 17.

“It would seem that the Parades Commission are prepared to allow Dungiven to become a hallmark of the double standards of how they operate.

“Instead of deluding themselves with unverifiable comments about unidentified unionists who supposedly heap private praise on their work, members of the Parades Commission should instead focus on why they attempt to ‘bury’ correspondence within their organisation from individuals who raise concerns about republican parades.”

The MP said the commission had never written to him to solicit his views on the Kevin Lynch band, but only written in response to letters he wrote in January, August and October.

A spokesperson for the commission responded, saying its chairman wrote to Mr Campbell in September addressing the MP’s concerns regarding previous parades in Dungiven.

“In October the commission wrote to Mr Campbell, given his stated interest, advising him that there was an event notified for November 17 in Dungiven and inviting him to make representation on the matter.

“Mr Campbell declined to attend the commission and make representation in person but submitted a written representation which was considered as part of the commission’s determination process.”

He said the commission is aware of the claims raised by Mr Campbell about replica weapons being carried by the Kevin Lynch band and has written to the organiser “reminding him of the requirement to comply with the commission’s Code of Conduct which covers a wide range of matters including behaviour outside places of worship and paramilitary displays”. He added: “In light of concerns raised the commission will be monitoring this event.”

Speaking earlier this week, Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey accused Gregory Campbell of “playing politics” over the parade.

Mr McGlinchey said he was involved in organising the annual Hunger Strike commemoration parade which featured the replica guns. “About a month before the parade, I met with the PSNI who inspected the guns and the certificates which came along with them,” he said.

“The guns are not carried by the band, they were part of the annual hunger strike march, and have been used in other parades in other places like south Armagh and there has never been any complaints.

“If there is any issue then Gregory Campbell should meet with me, as he has done so before, instead of playing politics and stirring up trouble where there is none.”