RESPONDING to what it considers unwarranted criticism of its parade, and others like it, Kinallen Flute Band insisted its event was in no way intended to be divisive or instil fear, but was staged as a showcase of music and culture, providing a free community arts event for all to enjoy, with all sections of the community encouraged to come out and watch the parade in an atmosphere of equality and mutual understanding.
In a response drafted on behalf of the officers and members of Kinallen Flute Band LOL 247, Roderick Tate rejected what he called “spurious and vitriolic comments”, “unfounded accusations” and criticisms of “the long established tradition of parades within the town”, repudiating “in the strongest possible terms” the “deeply offensive” characterisation of the Kinallen Flute parade as “wholly sectarian”.
“The first claim was the description of the parade as a ‘wholly sectarian event’ which ‘instils fear’. The Band would like to repudiate this characterisation of our parade in the strongest possible terms; our band prides itself on being one of the oldest community organisations in the Dromore area, being formed in 1837 and celebrating our 175th anniversary this year.
“As such, the band takes great pride in its association with the community in Dromore and surrounding areas and takes great exception to the suggestion that any event organised by the band in any way does or is intended to ‘instil fear’ in the Dromore community.
“Furthermore, the characterisation of the parade as ‘wholly secretarian’ is also deeply offensive to the band and one which they totally reject. The purpose of the parade is to be a fundraising event, with the band collecting donations from visiting bands and the local community; in addition to this the parade also serves as a showcase of music and culture, providing a free community arts event for all to enjoy.
“The parade in no way intends to ‘divide communities’ and the band has always encouraged all sections of the Dromore community to come out and watch our parade in an atmosphere of equality and mutual understanding.
“The second claim was that the parade caused a nuisance to local people and put an unfair cost on ratepayers for its policing and clean-up costs. Every year the band takes great pains to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum, providing stewards who are posted along the parade route and liaising with the police and local councillors to ensure this is the case.
“However, as with any popular event, a certain degree of disruption is inevitable, but was no more than would be expected from a large community event of this type. In addition to this the band also ensures that any clean-up costs are also kept to a minimum, with members, after the parade, going around and cleaning up rubbish in the town centre, ensuring there is only minimal cost to ratepayers.
“In addition to the accusations directed specifically against the annual parade organised by Kinallen Flute Band, criticism is also directed against all parades held in Dromore by the entire bands fraternity in the Dromore area.
“Parades are a long-held tradition within Dromore, with parades by organisations such as the loyal institutions dating back over two centuries and local bands such as Kinallen Flute Band and Skeogh Flute Band parading for many decades; in the case of Kinallen Flute Band, 40 years.
“In all cases the organisations which hold the parades draw their membership primarily from the local community in Dromore and surrounding areas and as such are deeply rooted in the local Dromore community.
“The view expressed is one of hostility to parades in Dromore, accusing them of ‘sterilising’ areas and engendering anti-social behaviour; however, even the author acknowledges that anti-social behaviour does not arise from the parades themselves but from followers. In this respect parade organisers cannot be responsible for social problems which may be present in elements of the community at large, but at all times do exercise their responsibility as parade organisers to discourage, wherever possible, acts of anti-social behaviour.
“With regard to the accusation that the parades effectively ‘sterilise’ areas of Dromore, we fear that it is the complainant himself who is in fact guilty of wishing to see Dromore become ‘sterilised’. His expressed view of wanting to see an end to parades in Dromore would actually see the use of public areas, which are owned by the entire community, being denied to organisations whose membership comes from that very community.
“It is our feeling that such a situation would run against the ideas of equality, pluralism and mutual respect which are key to building a new Northern Ireland.”