Northern Ireland

Loyalist Bands Forum to attend Sinn Fein Ard Fhéis

Apprentice Boys parade in Derry
Image caption Thousands took part in the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry last August

A loyalist bands group is to attend Sinn Féin's annual conference.

The Londonderry Bands Forum (LBF) is to give a presentation at the party's Ard Fhéis in the city on Saturday.

A spokesman said it "welcomed the opportunity to communicate its purpose and activities to a wider audience".

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said on Twitter: "I warmly welcome the decision of the Loyalist Londonderry Bands Forum to make a presentation at this weekend's Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis.#Respect"

'Natural progression'

The forum was set up to break down people's preconceptions of marching bands and parading in Northern Ireland.

A number of workshops have been set up for schoolchildren across Derry. It has mostly been Catholic schools taking up the offer, with students getting a chance to play flutes, drums and learn about band culture.

LBF chairman Kenny McFarland said he believed this project had "shown positive community leadership", and the decision to attend the ard fhéis was a "natural progression" for the group.

Its presentation will focus on educational underachievement, "especially of young Protestant males"; address "preconceptions of band culture"; and look at building relationships "on the basis of inclusion and equality".

Project co-ordinator Derek Moore, who recently led a delegation to meet Sinn Féin Education Minister John O'Dowd, said he felt young musicians from "the more recognised traditional and classical musical backgrounds" got more support than young bandsmen and women in the education system.

"This is a situation which we feel needs to be addressed positively through co-operation with school and educational decision-makers," he said.

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