A FLUTE band played music outside a Catholic church in “a concerted act of defiance” at parading restrictions, a court heard on Monday. Fists were pumped in the air as Pride of Ardoyne passed St Patrick’s Church in Donegall Street, North Belfast, prosecutors claimed.
A judge was told of the alleged demeanor and behaviour of some as two drummers denied a charge of knowingly flouting a condition imposed by the Parades Commission. Co Down man Thomas Beresford, was sentenced to three months for the offence during last year’s Ulster Covenant centenary parade. On Mr Michael Cosby and Richard Dunn insisted they were unaware that only a single drum beat was to be played on the contentious stretch of their route along Donegal Street. Eyesight and reading limitations formed part of the defence case. Their case, in which the verdict was reserved, comes less than a week after a bandsman was jailed for flouting a Parades Commission determination by playing sectarian tunes while passing St Matthew’s Catholic Church in East Belfast. Mr Cosby (51) of Wheatfield Drive, and Mr Dunn (26) from Alliance Road – both in Belfast – are jointly accused of failing to comply with the determination in August last year. The alleged breach occured as their band made its way into the city centre during the Royal Black Institution parade. Belfast Magistrates Court heard police had put signs along the route and on Land Rovers warning of the restriction.
The band appeared to be playing The Dambusters tune as it passed the Catholic church. CCTV footage of the incident also showed protesters holding a banner stating: “Respect St Patrick’s Church”. John O’Neill QC, prosecuting, argued that band members should have realised from the signs and conter-demonstration that it was not an ordinary situation. Dealing with the demeanour of some of those in and following Pride of Ardoyne, he said: “There are fists being pumped in the air and there are shouts at the crowd. “The prosecution suggest this isn’t a band innocently and accidentally playing music they shouldn’t. “Rather, it’s a concerted act of defiance.” He acknowledged, however, that neither defendant was seen pumping their fists. Both men insisted they were never told of the single drumbeat condition and spotted no notifications. Mr Cosby, a bass drummer who has been in the band for 35 years, told the court he only had vision in one eye. “I just didn’t see the signs,” he said. “I wasn’t told on the day about the determination.” Mr Dunn, a side drummer who joined Pride of Ardoyne 21 years ago, was just as adamant. As part of his defence he said his focus was on his two children parading directly in front of him. His limited reading abilities were also cited. “I can read but not great. The wife helps the kids with homeworks,” he said. Keith Gamble, defending, argued that neither of his clients had a case to answer. “It should be for the prosecution to prove that the defendant knowingly failed to comply,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we put signs up and they should have seen the signs.” However, District Judge Amanda Henderson refused the defence attempt to have the case thrown out. She will study the CCTV footage again before giving her verdict later this month.
With thanks to: The Irish News.