Row brewing over St Patrick’s parade

Declan McAlinden. INLM0811-812con
Declan McAlinden. INLM0811-812con

A political row has broken out over the St Patrick’s Day parade in Lurgan - centring on a band which had been due to lead the now cancelled parade

St Peter’s GAA Club in Lurgan called off their annual St Patrick’s Day Parade due to expected adverse weather conditions.

Carla Lockhart MLA.

Carla Lockhart MLA.

The parade has been at the centre of a controversy after the DUP raised concerns over a band taking part, which is named after a Provisional IRA member.

The Julie Dougan Flute Band were to take part in the St Patrick’s Day event, according to a notice on the Parades Commission website.

The band are named after ‘Volunteer Julie Dougan’, a woman described in a memorial notice published by the republican newspaper An Phoblacht as a member of Cumman Na mBán, the Provisional IRA’s women’s unit.

The notice describes Julie Dougan as having died while “on active service” on July 8, 1972.

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart and MP David Simpson expressed concerns about any “glorification of paramilitarism” in a press statement issued yesterday (which did not identify the GAA club involved).

Ms Lockhart said: “The St Patrick’s Day parade in Lurgan organised by the GAA should be a family-orientated day with no links to paramilitary trappings, symbols or memorials of paramilitaries.

“The GAA promotes itself as an inclusive organisation and should adhere to that, particularly when organising an event of this nature.

“The message should be clear from all sections of our community that paramilitarism should not be glorified or promoted in any way.

“Having represented Lurgan for over 10 years, this damages the good relations work that has and continues to take place in the town.

“I am outraged that a St Patrick’s Day parade is tarnished with such trappings.”

Mr Simpson added: “I am saddened to learn that a band who remembers an IRA member is allowed to take part in a parade which should be open for the entire community.

“Allowing the community to come together is important and it is vital that the real reason why St Patrick’s Day is celebrated is recognised.”

A spokesperson for the GAA’s Ulster Council gave a brief response: “The GAA are a non-political organisation. We are a sporting organisation, open to all, and we don’t get involved in politics.”

Meanwhile, another GAA club became embroiled in the controversy after they were identified as organising the parade in a national daily newspaper article.

SDLP Councillor Declan McAlinden condemned ‘unequivocally Carla Lockhart’s remarks in the article’.

The article associated Wolfe Tones GAA club Derrymacash with the parade.

“Wolfe Tones GAA club have nothing to do with the parade tomorrow in Lurgan and in fact are holding their own parade and community day.

“Having spoken to the Chairman this morning he is outraged with her remarks and is concerned that they may lead to an attack on their members/club and tarnishes the good name of the Derrymacash community.

“Indeed today at their club they are hosting a cross community event with local primary schools and do this on a regular basis.”

Ms Lockhart has pointed out: “At no stage did I attribute the organisation of this parade to Wolfe Tones and I was well aware of who the parade organisers were.”