Early start for sectarianism in Stoneyford

The long running campaign of sectarianism in Stoneyford is something that Slugger has covered in detail.

I’m sure many of the people directly affected had hoped the arrest and detention of Mark Harbinson would bring some respite:

The Pride of the Village Flute Band is led by loyalist Mark Harbinson, who in November 2009 was remanded in custody charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

Mr Harbinson has also been questioned by police in connection with an alleged sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy

However the band he leads, the Pride of the Village Flute Band, has again applied to march around mixed cul-de-sac estates in the village this time on the evening of St Patrick’s Day.

The Parades Commission determination also covered by the BBC permits the parade with restrictions but notes:

ADDS: Parade route added at end

4. The Commission has a number of concerns in relation to this notification. Firstly, the notification was not left with an officer of the PSNI of the rank of sergeant or above, as required by the legislation. The person leaving it at the police station did so without providing a name, an address or any contact details. Moreover, the notification does not name an organiser while the signature purporting to be that of the organiser is illegible. Considering the named marshals on the notification, the police have been unable to identify any but one. The identified marshal has stated to them that he has not been approached to act as a marshal nor has he any knowledge that this parade is taking place; although he did express a willingness to participate if approached. In addition, there is no stated purpose for this parade. The 17th March is recognised nationally and internationally as St. Patrick’s Day, a day traditionally associated with the celebration of Irish heritage and culture. The Pride of the Village Flute Band has on no occasion in the past demonstrated such affiliations and has no history of parading on this date. The question, therefore, remains unanswered as to whether or not this is a mischievous notification to parade in Stoneyford from an unrelated third party; or, indeed, whether it is a genuine notification from the Pride of the Village band.

5. The Commission, in the interests of supporting the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms; and recognising that failure to complete administrative requirements need not interfere with those rights; has decided to determine on this notification. A determination does not indicate or support the legality of this notification in its current form and failure to meet all statutory requirements for advance notice may leave those concerned open to prosecution and conviction. This is a matter for the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service.

6. Nevertheless, the Commission feels that it has sufficient information to enable it to determine on this notification in its present form and in the light of other information, evidence and advice laid before it.

7. The Commission understands that Stoneyford has seen sectarian tension, and that the organising band has been the focus of concerns about sectarian intimidation in the village. The Commission considers that the notification of this parade can only give rise to renewed tensions in Stoneyford. As it has done previously in considering parades notified by this band, the Commission suggests to the organiser that he reflect carefully on whether his actions are in the best interests of community relations in Stoneyford; and if they are helping to further the interests of parading as a peaceful, cultural tradition.

17. Having considered all the evidence, information and advice available to it, the Commission takes the view that it is necessary to curtail part of the parade’s notified route, and it has therefore placed conditions on the parade. This decision is set against the background of continuing local community tension. It recognises the real possibility of damaging community relations should the parade proceed along the entirety of its notified route. Whilst recognising the fundamental importance of the right to freedom of assembly, the Commission finds it necessary to exercise its powers under section 8 of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 to place restrictions on the parade.

A feature on Radio Ulster suggested despite the failure to comply with legislation the Parades Commission is powerless to prevent the parade and can only place restrictions on it. The only authority to outright ban it lies with the Secretary of State acting on a recommendation from the Chief Constable.

The TUV have thrown their weight behind Harbison’s mob via their local Councillor Cecil Calvert:

TUV councillor for the area Cecil Calvert last night slammed the decision as “wrong” not allowing the band to march through the two mixed housing estates.

Addition: The oft proposed route that hits every mixed cul-de-sac and misses out others (satellite version is well out of date):

View Parade – Stoneyford in a larger map