A number of loyalist bands have vowed to withdraw their support for the Apprentice Boys of Derry following a statement issued by the head of the association.
A row broke out at a parade in Londonderry on Saturday when Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band wore shirts with a Parachute Regiment emblem and the letter ‘F’ – in support of a former soldier facing murder charges over the deaths of two men on Bloody Sunday.
Police officers flanked the band and later stopped their bus and took the names of some members.
In the wake of the incident, Governor Graeme Stenhouse said the Apprentice Boys recognise the potential upset caused to nationalists by the emblem worn by the visiting flute band.
He added that the association had no prior knowledge of the uniform worn by Clyde Valley during Saturday’s march, and only found out about it after the parade.
The statement has sparked anger from a number of loyalist bands, who – in a show of solidarity with Clyde Valley – have said they will cut ties with the ABOD and will no longer march in any of its demonstrations.
Cloughfern Young Conquerors and Rathcoole Protestant Boys, both based in Newtownabbey, and Pride of Ballybeen from Dundonald, all slammed the Apprentice Boys on social media.
Rathcoole PB branded the statement “a complete joke”, adding: “We as a band have decided we will not do another ABOD parade again. You would think that their statement was from a nationalist group and it left the band to be hung out to dry.”
Pride of Ballybeen said it had been “left in disbelief” by Mr Stenhouse’s statement, adding: “We have taken the decision to support the right of the Clyde Valley Flute Band to visually support the Queen’s troops.”
Cloughfern YC said its decision to pull support for the ABOD was “not just about a badge, or support of a veteran”, adding: “Bands must look out for each other now more than ever, regardless of denomination. We intend to do so.”
Clyde Valley said it was “overwhelmed” by the support it had received following Saturday’s incident.
A source close to the bands told the News Letter that there was “a lot of anger” in the loyalist community following the events of Saturday, but added: “I think these bands are just venting and they will pull back from this.”
In response to the comments made by the three bands, Mr Stenhouse urged them to look at his statement in the round.
He told the News Letter: “To bands who take part in our demonstration, please read the whole statement. We did not blame the band or said they did anything wrong.
“It has been a tough week and we are trying to keep a lid on the situation and prevent it from escalating.
“I would ask the bands to consider the situation we face in Londonderry, a predominantly nationalist city. It is a different ball game to other parts of Northern Ireland.”
East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it was important that unionists “of whatever ilk” do not “fall out” over the situation.
“This is an issue unionists should be standing together on,” he added.