Bloody Sunday families have requested a meeting with the Apprentice Boys of Derry to express their “disgust” over last weekend’s contentious parade.
Members of Clydevalley Flute Band from Larne wore a Parachute Regiment symbol with the letter 'F' on their shirts during Saturday's parade.
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell and Gary Middleton Foyle MLA also faced criticism for standing under a Parachute Regiment banner in the Fountain.
Several days of disorder have followed in the Bogside with petrol bombs having been thrown at Apprentice Boys’ memorial hall and the city walls.
Soldier F, a former lance corporal in the Parachute Regiment, is to be prosecuted for the alleged murder of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
The same soldier was reported to have been connected to the killing of Michael Kelly, brother of John Kelly one of the main campaigners and spokespeople for the Bloody Sunday families.
The PPS found that there was “no admissible and credible witness evidence that Soldier F fired at the rubble barricade” notwithstanding that the bullet recovered from Michael Kelly’s body was linked to a rifle used by Soldier F.
John Kelly, brother of Michael, said both the bands and DUP representatives should be “ashamed of themselves”.
“What they’re doing is giving the fingers to the families, people who lost loved ones and they knew exactly what they were doing, it’s totally disgusting and they should be ashamed of themselves.
“They are supporting this soldier through their actions; this soldier is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders so as far as I’m concerned they’re now supporting a person who will hopefully be prosecuted for the killing of our loved ones on Bloody Sunday.
“This campaign in support of soldier F has being going on for a year and they are now participating in it and showing support for this murderer. This soldier murdered my brother and when I see this happening it really, really hurts me.
“To think these are people who are supposed to be responsible, supposed to be educated, supposed to be representing all of the people – they certainly have not shown leadership in any shape or form.”
Addressing the actions of the Clydevalley Flute Band, he added: “The parade probably had hundreds of stewards, and as soon as they recognised the type of emblem they had, that band should’ve been removed because what they were doing was purely provocative.
“The police should not have escorted them, they should’ve been taken out of the parade altogether because an assurance was given that no emblems in relation to soldier F would be worn.
“They should not have been allowed to walk the streets of Derry, especially so close to where Bloody Sunday happened. They were there to provoke, antagonise and create a problem, and they have, given what has now happened with young people in the Bogside.
“And this is what I feared in relation to this campaign supporting soldier F that a time would come when people would be angry and the last thing I want to see is any sort of violence coming out of this so the Apprentice Boys of Derry should’ve moved in straight away, took them out of the march, and removed them from the city – and they should never be allowed back again.”
Mr Kelly said the Bloody Sunday families have reached out for a meeting with the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
Donncha MacNiallais of the Bogside Residents’ Group has been one of the key nationalist brokers of the agreement around parades in Derry.
The Derry model is a locally agreed compromise which has drastically improved relations between nationalists and loyal orders in the city.
Prior to this year’s parade there were concerns that a planned demonstration in support of the Parachute Regiment and the alleged murderer soldier F.
“We outlined those fears and the Apprentice Boys agreed that they would discourage any such displays and if there were unauthorised displays during the parade that their stewards with deal with it, and if they couldn’t they would be content for the PSNI to deal with it.
“We separately met the PSNI and they gave assurances that they would deal with any such displays given the sensitivities in Derry. What we saw on Saturday was a disgrace, a blatant two finger salute to the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday.
“It has created a lot of understandable anger right across the city. The Bloody Sunday families have offered to meet the Apprentice Boys and I’m sure they’ll have support from right across the political spectrum.”
The PSNI and businessman Garvan O'Doherty were both present at discussions and confirmed that concerns about sectarian messages, including soldier F, were raised.
Referring to the trouble that followed, with the Apprentice Boys memorial hall and city walls being attacked with petrol bombs, Mr Mac Niallais said he doesn’t condone those actions but believes it was the reaction the Clyde Valley Flute Band sought to provoke.
“It has damaged relations and trust will have to be rebuilt but it is not insurmountable. In the first instance the Apprentice Boys need to meet with the Bloody Sunday families and Bloody Sunday Trust and deal with the issues that occurred,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Billy Moore, said it was “nonsense” to suggest that any agreement was in place before the march regarding soldier F or Parachute Regiment symbols.
That is “totally untrue”, he said, and there was no way he could give any type of assurance that “nothing untoward” would take place with 15,000-20,000 people on a parade just as “no concrete assurances” could be given regarding Republican protestors.
He added that it was “nonsense” to suggest that the actions of the DUP or the Clyde Valley Flute Band served to stoke tensions which led to petrol bomb attacks on the Apprentice Boys memorial hall.
Mr Moore was also adamant that no offence was committed by the Clyde Valley Flute Band.
“I can’t condemn something that at this moment and time I don’t believe was illegal. The fact is if you throw petrol bombs at a building that’s illegal, if you have an unregistered protest and trespass on top of the Foyleside Shopping Centre, that’s illegal.
“If the police believed this was an offence why was the band not stopped in Newtownabbey or Rathcoole, rather than leaving it until they arrived in Derry where they knew it was going to create problems for the parade, for marshals and citizens of the town. The police got it entirely wrong.
“We accept there were difficulties and problems arose, no-one is going to deny that, but if we want to resolve it we’re going to have to go back into conversations and reach some sort of an accommodation again. By continually point scoring it won’t make it easy.”
Mr Moore expressed anger about petrol bomb attacks on the memorial hall when 500 people were inside on Saturday night which could have resulted in the loss of life and he said a “serious reaction” from those in the building was narrowly avoided.
“The most serious incident of the weekend was the attack on the memorial hall. There was another attack last night and we recently refurbished Walker’s Plinth at a cost of over £140,000 and that has been totally destroyed again with paint bombs.
“It doesn’t send out a very good message about tolerance and respect or acceptance.
“Things didn’t go right at the weekend but if we want to continue with being the Derry model and a showcase for the rest of N.I. we have to get into dialogue and fix it for the future to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
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