Northern Ireland

Young Conway Volunteers: Defence bid to dismiss 'sectarian song' case

Band members were filmed playing music while marching in circles outside the Catholic church
Image caption Band members were filmed playing music while marching in circles outside the Catholic church in 2012

Lawyers defending loyalist flute band members accused of playing a sectarian tune outside a Catholic church played folk songs and football chants in court in a bid to clear their clients' names.

The 13 defendants, all members of the Belfast band, Young Conway Volunteers, are alleged to have played the Famine Song at St Patrick's church in 2012.

The band claim they were performing the Beach Boys hit Sloop John B.

Judgment was reserved on a defence application to have the case dismissed.

The incident, during a 12 July parade, was the first in a series of flashpoint incidents at the Donegall Street location.

Senior judges in Scotland have previously ruled the controversial Famine Song - which includes the line "The famine's over, why don't you go home?" - to be racist.

But on the third day of the trial at Belfast Magistrates' Court, the band members' lawyers sought a ruling that they have no case to answer, arguing that a tune alone cannot be sectarian.

Played to the same music, the Beach Boy's song uses the lyrics: "I feel so broke up, I wanna go home."

To back the band's case, a defence lawyer showed the court video footage of seven different situations involving songs or performances using the same tune.

One clip featured Swedish folk singer Cornelis Vreeswijk, while in another the performer Voltaire was seen giving a rendition of a song called Screw the Ocampa at a Star Trek convention.

Chants by football fans from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Manchester were also played in court.

All 13 defendants are contesting a charge of doing a provocative act likely to cause public disorder or a breach of the peace.

The court heard further renditions, said to be of Sloop John B, by two other flute bands in neutral environments.

The defence lawyer said a series of notes alone cannot be classed as sectarian without accompanying lyrics, and he said the defendants were only playing their instruments at the time.

A defence barrister, representing some of the other accused, said the band had not gone out of its way to stop in a contentious area.

Reserving judgment on the defence application, the judge said he would give a ruling next week.

Related Topics