DUP accused of Rasharkin parade 'scare-mongering'

Image caption,
Restrictions have been placed on the annual Rasharkin parade

The DUP has been accused of scare-mongering over a loyalist parade in Rasharkin at the weekend.

On Tuesday, a delegation from the DUP held talks with the PSNI about Friday's parade in the County Antrim village.

Afterwards, the party's Jeffrey Donaldson said there was the potential for "huge public disorder".

However, Sinn Fein assembly member Daithi McKay accused the DUP of "stirring up tension" over the parade.

Last week, the Parades Commission placed restrictions on the annual Ballymaconnelly parade following trouble at the event last year.

The organisers, Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band, wanted to go through the village, then back again. However, the commission has banned the return parade.

Later on Tuesday, the commission said it had decided to uphold its decision to place restrictions after being asked to review it by the band.

In a statement, the commission said: "We have heard from political representatives on both sides as well as from residents and the police.

"Following those meetings the commission remains of the view that the original determination is the most appropriate for this parade."

There was minor trouble at the parade last year when some golf balls were thrown at the marchers. Residents also blew whistles and horns.

'Car wreck'

After meeting police earlier on Tuesday, the DUP's Mr Donaldson said: "It's like watching a car wreck in slow motion.

"We can see this happening. You can just tell by looking at the map of the village, looking at the circumstances in the background to this, that this has the potential for huge public disorder."

However, Mr McKay said: "Since the original determination was issued by the Parade's Commission on the Ballymaconnelly event the DUP has done nothing but stir up tension."

He added: "I have spoken to the PSNI and they have said that at this moment in time there is not a huge potential for public disorder."

The DUP was also criticised by the SDLP's Declan O'Loan.

"I am very critical of the Ballymaconnelly Band and the DUP over their reaction to the Parades Commission determination on the Rasharkin parade and their attempt to overturn it," he said.

"It would have changed the climate completely if the parade organisers and their political supporters had said that despite their reservations they would comply with the Parades Commission ruling."

The police said they would "work tirelessly with protest and parade organisers to reduce the likelihood of any tensions and disorder and we will continue to do this".