A PRIEST on Wednsday night said he hoped the judgment in the case of 13 (unlucky for sum number) loyalist bandsmen who played a sectarian tune outside his Belfast Catholic Church would send a clear message for future parades.
Three members of the Young Conway Volunteers ( a band allinged to the morden day UVF) on Wednsday 29th April received suspended jail sentences after being filmed playing the Famine Song while marching in a circle outside St Patrick’s Church in July 2012. Ten others were bound over to keep the peace, and £300 in fines were imposed on all but two of the accused. District Judge Paul Copeland told them: ” This was outrageous and inflammatory behaviour, which could have precipitated serious public disorder.” St Patrick’s parish priest Fr Michael Sheehan, said he “noted the very clear judgement” and hoped “this will add clarity for future bands and to future determinations by the Parades Commisssion”. “Again I encocourage all to follow and adhere to the determinations in contentious parades.” Shame Fein councillor JJ Magee, who recorded the footage of the band, said the convictons “send out a clear message that sectarianism will not be tolerated”. However, a TUV councillor described the news as “disgusting” and offered to pay part of the fine imposed on one loyalist. The bandsmen had fought a charge of ‘doing a provocative act likely to cause public disorder or a breach of the peace’. They denied playing the Famine Song – including the line ‘The famine’s over, why don’t you go home?’ – claiming instead to have been performing the Beach Boys hit Sloop John B. Convicted were: Aaron McCory (29) of Argyle Court; Alan Adlam (42) from Dewey Street; Christopher McKay (24) of Wallasey Park; Bryan Green (27) of Canmore Court; Stephen Smyth (22) from Tennent Streeet; William Carlisle (30) from Ainsworth Avenue; Jonathan Airdrie (25) of Columbia Street; Paul Shaw (35) of Geoffrey Street; Thomas Gibney (36) from Lawnbrook Avenue – all in Belfast – and Ryan Aitcheson (28) of Ravelston Avenue in Newtownabbey. Charges were also brought against three other youths. Defence lawyers played songs by a Swedish folk singer, a Star Trek enthusiast and football fan chants – all to the same tune – in a bid to have their clients cleared. Paul Shaw, band leader on the day, said they had been forced to stop outside St Patrick’s due to a break in the July 12th parade and started up the Beach Boys to ward off lethargy amoung members tired from the previous night. He revealed that he later penned a letter to Catholic parishioners “to explain the band in no way had intention to cause any upset to anybody”. However, Judge Copeland said it was “a studied and deliberate piece of conduct which involved their playing and marching (pictued above outside St Patrick’s) not just past this church, but deliberately remaining within feet of the doorstep”. He added that the Famine Song has entered into the “repertoire” of loyalist band music and had the potential “as an anthem of sectarian abuse at least, or, at worst, racial hatred”. Five-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, were imposed on McCrory, McKay and Airdrie. The other 10 were each bound over to keep the peace for the next two years. A lawyer for Shaw and one of the teenagers confirmed their intention to appeal the verdict.
Shame Fein councillor welcomes convictions of bandsmen
Mr Magee shot damning footage of the band walking in circles while playing the controversial song – previously judged to be racist by a Scotish court – during a July 12 march. The episode sparked one of the most bitter parades disputes across the North of Ireland in recent years as well as bringing the Famine Song to wider attention. The hate-filled tune was also at the centre of controversy recently after Bangor Protestant Boys played it within earshot of St Patrick’s Church during an Apprentice Boys parade on Easter Monday. While loyal order marches past the city centre church and nearby nationalist Carrick Hill district have been contentious down the years, the event outside St Patrick’s Church in 2012 dramatically raised tensions and provoked protests by residents which have continued since. Based on the loyalist Shankill Road, the Young Conway Volunteers band was formed in 2007 for the “preservation and promotion” of the memory of Thomas Kinner – a member of the UVF youth wing, the Young Citizen Volunteers, who died in 2003. At the time unionist politicians defended the band including former DUP minister Nelson McCausland, who described their actions as “naive”. Shame Fein accused Mr McCausland and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds of being “in close proximity” to the bandsmen but failing to intervene. The band was at the centre of more controversy weeks later when it defied a Parades Commission ruling not to take part in Royal Black Institution march past St Patrick’s Church. Prior to the August parade First Minister Peter (the lock keeper got it in) Robinson was one of several unionist politicians and band members who signed an open letter to then Secretary of State Owen Patterson complaining about the YCV ban and warning of possible violence. The letter called Mr Patterson a ‘Pontius Pilate’ and urged him to disband the Parades Commission, accusing it of making “a monstrous determination that defies logic and natural justice”. The Royal Black Institution later apologised to clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s Church after bands defied commission rulings on music and trouble broke out, leaving seven police officers injured. Tensions have remained high during subsequent marches past the church, with protesters claiming bands have continued to breach determinations. Last year 17 members of the YCV band were cleared of breaching a commission determination relating to the August parade after a judge ruled it could not be proved they knew anything about the ruling. Two ‘Pride of Ardoyne’ drummers were also cleared of knowingly breaching restrictions afer citing eyesight and reading limitations for not seeing signs warning to play a single drumbeat. Questions were then asked of the legal system when, weeks later, six members of the Constable Anderson Memorial Band from Larne in Co Antrim were convicted of flouting a Parades Commission ruling not to play music outside St Patrick’s Church during the same parade. In April last year 11 members of Dunmurry Protestant Boys were acquitted of provocatively playing a sectarian tune outside the church during an Apprentice Boys parade in November 2012. They had denied striking up the Famine Song, claiming instead they were playing the Beach Boys’ Sloop john B, which uses the same air. A judge threw the case out on the basis that it could not be proven that a breach of the peace (one law for Protestants another for Catholics) was either intended or likely. But later that month the most senior member of the Royal Black Institution in Belfast was one of five members of the organisation convicted of knowingly breaching a ban on loyalist bands playing music outside St Patrick’s Church. William Mawhinney was also the Orange Order’s Belfast county secretary and has played a central part in demonstrations connected to the loyalist protest camp in the Twaddell area close to Ardoyne in North Belfast. Meanwhile, in 2013 William Bell (48), known as Billy, admitted assaulting JJ Magee during the July 2012 parade as it past Saint Patrick’s Church in North Belfast. Bell waved a club-shaped stick at the Shame Fein member, who has since been elected to Belfast City Council, as he was filming the band outside the church. Mr Magee welcomed the latest convictions on Wednsday night. “It sends out a clear message that sectarianism will not be tolerated,” he said. “Time and time again bands stick two fingers up to the parishioners of St Patrick’s Church. He also called on the Orange Order, which to date has refused to meet Carrick Hill residents, to enter into talks. The Orange Order, which hires these bands, claims it wants respect for its expression of culture but they need to realise that respect is a two-way street,” he said. A spokesman for the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast said: “As the ruling is the subject of a possible appeal it would be inappropiate to comment.” The DUP’s Nelson McCausland meanwhile said he was “appalled” at a decision to not prosecute a band called The Druids who were accused of making anti-British army remarks during last year’s Ardoyne Fleadh. He said it was ,” Ironic that this decision has been revealed on the same day” as the YCV band members were convicted.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the origional story.
Politician offers to help pay court
A TUV politician has offered to help pay the court fine handed down to one of the bandsmen convicted on Wednsday April 29th.
Jolene Bunting, Belfast’s only a TUV councillor, said she would pay part of the £300 fine imposed on Christopher McKay. McKay, of Wallasey Park in North Belfast, was one of three bandsmen given a five-month prison sentence suspended for two years. Shortly after the court hearing, the 24-year-old expressed his anger over the sentence on Facebook. Replaying to his message, Ms Bunting wrote: “Absolutely disgusting, there was NOT illegal about what the band done (sic). I will give you a couple of pound towarwards your fine Chrissy.” However, McKay told the councillor that a financial contribution was unnecessary. “No mate its sweet ill get it paid chum iv 10 weeks mate,”he wrote. A number of Facebook friends also showed their support for the defendent and criticised the court decision. McKay described it as “shockin like cuz were prods”. Last year Ms Bunting apologised for sectarian comments she made online in 2011 about Catholics. The councillor, aged in her early twenties, had been heavily criticised for the remarks after being elected to the new Belfast super council. One message read: “I’m so sick of the poor Catholic bastards they make me sick.” Ms Bunting adimitted what she wrote was “wrong” – but said she didn’t regret the content, “I do not want to appologise for the innocent people in the Court ward who I offended by using the word Catholic when I ment republicans,” she said.
With many thanks to: Brendan Hughes, The Irish News, For the orgional story.