A Lisburn flute band has spoken out after finding itself at the centre of a St Patrick’s Day parade controversy.
The Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band is set to take part in the parade, which is being hosted by Bateson’s True Blues LOL 1925 in the city on Friday night (March 17).
But reports in the Irish News have claimed opposition to the band taking part in the event, highlighting Clarke’s involvement in the murder of three Catholics in Craigavon in 1991.
In a statement, the band said it had taken his name in light of his community work in Lisburn once released from prison and his involvement in the formation of the band.
They also questioned why their taking part in the parade received such intense scrutiny, despite numerous bands named after former members of Republican groups set to take part in St Patrick’s Day Parades around the country.
They said: “Like many before him, Noel Clarke was involved in the conflict, this we neither deny, nor dispute.
“For his part in the conflict he served a jail sentence. For him there was no Royal Pardon, no immunity or no letter of comfort. Unlike many, Noel Clarke paid in full for his involvement.
“Upon his release from jail, he rejoined his community, and straightaway involved himself in numerous community development schemes and groups.
“It is therefore important that we place on record, Noel was pivotal to the success of many positive projects in Lisburn, each one geared to dissuade the young and vulnerable from becoming involved in crime.
“One of the projects closest to Noel’s heart, was the formation of a flute band in Lisburn. For several years he worked tirelessly, raising funds for instruments, smart uniforms and WW1 Standards; overseeing twice weekly music classes, and overall, ensuring that when the band eventually went on parade, it would be a credit to one and all.
“Tragically, Noel passed away before his dream was realised, and in tribute to him, the Committee of the band elected to take the name ‘Noel Clarke Memorial’, in honour of the tireless work that our friend had undertaken.”
They added: “To clarify, yes, the ‘Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band’ will be taking part in Lisburn’s St Patrick’s Day parade on March 17, however it is interesting to note, on the same date, The Parades Commission’s website lists that the Kevin Lynch Memorial Flute Band is parading through Dungiven.
“With many others of its ilk, this INLA inspired band parades the towns and villages of Ulster on a weekly basis, in full military style uniforms.
“Are Republicans exempt from scrutiny in the tabloids?”
Bateson’s True Blues, organisers of the St Patrick’s Day parade, declined to comment on the matter. However Lodge Secretary John Miller said: “Speaking as a TUV representative for Lagan Valley and not as secretary of the lodge, I’m calling upon the TUV to come out and support this lodge and the parade.”
The St Patrick’s Day parade will set off from Lisburn Orange Hall at 7pm, with a talk and entertainment scheduled to take place at the Railway Street venue from 8pm.
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