Band’s drink licence request divides councillors

The Square.
The Square.

An Ulster Unionist councillor has voiced his disapproval over the granting of an alcohol licence for a concert organised by a local flute band.

At the February meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, elected members were advised of the concert to be held in Ballyclare Town Hall on Saturday, March 25.

The organisers of the event, Ballyclare Protestant Boys Flute Band had contacted the local authority to apply for a licence in order to sell alcohol on the premises which are owned by the council.

Officers who reviewed the application had recommended that permission for an alcohol licence be given and Ballyclare UUP councillor, Cllr David Arthurs supported the recommendation.

But his party colleague, Cllr Jim Bingham, expressed a different point of view.

He referred to incidents which involved the band in the wake of Apprentice Boys’ Day last year.

He said: “One of the reasons for my opposition is that on the last parade from Londonderry, when the band got off the bus in Ballyclare they were fighting with each other as a result of too much alcohol.

“The men who were walking took their collarettes off and walked home and left the band there.”

Following these comments, DUP representative, Cllr Phillip Brett seconded Cllr Arthurs’ proposal and the motion was passed.

Chair of the meeting, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Cllr John Scott said Cllr Bingham’s comments were noted.

Speaking to the Times in response, PUP representative and Ballyclare Protestant Boys vice chair, Scott McDowell said: “The very small incident that did occur on Derry Day was very much regrettable and the few responsible were removed from the band, The band has been working tirelessly over the close season to increase membership by doing outreach on Saturday evenings to attract the local youths into the band. This is at a time when provisions for the youth in Ballyclare are at an all-time low.”

Mr McDowell added: “At that time our membership was 18 and through hard work it has now increased to 44 and growing. The band has recently played at a couple of charity events and made generous donations to these events,

“We would appreciate if people would look at the very positive work the band is doing rather than trying to demonize us over one very small incident!

“Another positive contribution from the band came in November 2016 when we took part in the town’s Remembrance Day Service, laying a wreath for the first time.

“We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to everyone for their support and hope this continues as we strive to make the band one of the most respected outfits, not only in Newtownabbey, but across the band scene.”