Newry council sparks outrage amidst accusations of banning Irish flag from St. Patrick's Day parade
While trying to reduce tensions, the council have done the opposite.
The upcoming Saint Patrick's Day parade in Newry has sparked controversy after it was revealed that all Irish flags were banned from the parade.
Previously, Newry council had placed a ban on flying the Irish tricolour; however, this year will see the Four Provinces flag also being prohibited.
The issue was raised by one Stephen Murney, a representative of the Irish republican party Saoradh, who said he was informed of the news by a member of the marching band, Banna Fliuit Naoimh Phadraig.
"They informed me that they had phoned the council to enquire if the flute band could carry the tricolour in this year's parade in Newry," Murney said. "Not only were they told that they are banned from carrying our national flag, but they were also told that the flag of the Four Provinces would also be banned.
"This is outrageous and is clearly an attempt to suppress and erode any display of Irish culture and heritage in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
"Saint Patrick’s Day is a worldwide recognition of Irish culture. It’s a disgrace that our nation’s flags are being banned. It has to be asked, 'who will enforce such a ban?' Will the British forces be tasked to enforce it?
"It’s time these discriminatory rules against anything Irish were resisted."
Murney has since insisted that the Irish tricolour will be flown at the proceedings.
Responding to the matter, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's Marketing Officer, Mark Higgins told JOE that the council "do not name specific flags, emblems, music, behaviour etc. which are banned".
"The Council aims to encourage self-regulation where participants begin to reflect upon the impact of their actions on others taking part, and work towards developing an inclusive and welcoming environment.
"While Council has not been prescriptive in naming specific flags, emblems, music, behaviour etc, context, intent and potential impact upon other participants and spectators are primary factors which must be given serious consideration by all entrants and participants.
"Participants must therefore be mindful that the Council reserves, in its absolute discretion, the right to reject at any stage an entrant on such grounds as the Council shall see fit to consider without any obligation to disclose such grounds."
This comes after all flags and emblems were banned in Strabane, Co. Tyrone at the beginning of February, in an effort by Derry City and Strabane District Council to make the parade a cross-community event.
Clarifying the matter in a statement, DCSDC said: "In keeping with the paper approved by the Council’s Business and Culture committee, the event will be a cross-community cultural celebration with a strong family-friendly focus.
"Therefore, flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone. Council is committed to promoting inclusion and integration within and between communities in all its activities, events and programmes."
Sinn Féin Councillor Karina Carlin, however, confirmed that the party would seek to reverse the decision, stating: "The national flag has always formed part of the celebrations in Strabane without any difficulty or controversy.
"We see no reason why that cannot continue and why the national flag cannot be carried as part of the official event to celebrate the national patron saint.
“However, as the history of this parade has shown, it is perfectly possible to run a genuinely inclusive and cross-community event where flags are carried in a respectful manner."