Loyalist band defends church incident

The loyalist band played outside the church for 15 to 20 minutes

A loyalist band filmed playing tunes outside a Catholic church in north Belfast has said media coverage was an attempt "to demonise the Loyal Orders and Ulster's marching band fraternity."

The incident happened at St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street during the Twelfth of July.

The Young Conway Volunteers band was recorded walking around in circles outside the church.

They say it was "pure chance" that they came to a halt outside the church.

"In fact, many of our members in the band only realised that we had been playing outside the chapel when it was reported by the local media," the band said in a statement.

'Unfortunate'

The church, they said, "had its doors closed and there was certainly no act of worship going on at the time."

The band also said they were not playing the Famine Song, an anti-Irish song that originated in Glasgow.

The Famine Song is sung to the music of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B, but replaces the chorus "I feel so broke up, I wanna go home" with "The famine is over, why don't you go home?".

The Justiciary Appeal Court in Scotland has ruled that the song is racist.

"The tune we were playing is actually a Beach Boy song title Sloop John B," the band's statement said.

"The singing of words that some supporters associated with the tune the band was playing at the time was perhaps unfortunate and may have just been a by-product of the exuberance of the day of celebration of our culture and history."

Referring to footage of the person recording the incident being confronted and threatened the band said: "Several of our band did take exception to being filmed and having their children filmed (as young as three years old) by what is believed a member of a hostile Republican gathering, perceivably for some untoward purpose, before marshals did approach to ask him to stop filming.

In the video, several men, including one brandishing a stick, can be seen approaching the person filming.

'Inappropriate'

The statement said that in a stretch of road before St Patrick's the parade had been subjected to "foul, sectarian and bigoted abuse."

"The police stood by and took no action against what was, at each junction, undoubtedly illegal gatherings," said the statement.

"The fact that crowds were allowed to gather in such close proximity, and the fact that there were more intense numbers was more noticeable this year."

"If the YCV Shankill Road may have given offence in this instance, we would certainly apologise to those in authority or engagement, for any act that perceivably may have brought discredit on the colours which we wear, or the historic YCV title which we proudly bear."

The Parades Commission described the incident as "totally inappropriate".

Rev Brian Kennaway said the commission would look into how it was allowed to happen.

In a statement the PSNI said that it had been observed that two bands had continued to play when they had stopped outside the church.

"Although it was deemed that this was not in breach of a Parades Commission determination, officers liaised with parade stewards to negotiate an end to this action," continued the statement.

"Police evidence gatherers were also tasked to the area to monitor and record the incident.

"Officers intervened when a member of the public privately recording the incident was approached by a group of men. Throughout this incident police worked closely with stewards and organisers to resolve the situation peacefully.

"A considerable amount of footage has been recorded and will be studied closely. If any criminal offences are detected a full and thorough investigation will be carried out."

In a statement, Belfast County Grand Lodge said: "The institution reviews all parades and will take any issues into account in that review."

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