DERRY and Strabane District Council have banned the sale of Parachute Regiment flags at the upcoming loyalist Apprentice Boys’ parade, scheduled for August 12, the BBC reports.
The decision was reached following last year’s row which occurred during the same event last year. The row erupted when it was discovered that the flags were being sold at a stall along the parade route.
The Parachute Regiment is reviled by the nationalist population because of the part it played in Bloody Sunday in 1972, when 13 unarmed civilians were shot dead on the streets of Derry. Another died later in hospital
The council, in a report presented last week, acknowledged the “sensitivities” surrounding the presence of these flags, given the historical context.
During discussions at a council committee last week, new criteria for granting temporary licenses for the Relief of Londonderry event were debated. The new guidelines state that stallholders will be denied a license unless they agree not to sell any flags or emblems associated with the Parachute Regiment. Moreover, the council officials will refuse licenses to anyone intending to sell or display flags supporting paramilitary organizations, which is unlawful in Northern Ireland.
Last year’s parade witnessed at least one stallholder selling flags in support of the Ulster Volunteer Force, leading to additional concerns. The PSNI also confiscated several ‘inflammatory’ flags in the Waterside area of the city
during that time.
This year, in a firm stand against controversial symbols, the council has taken measures to ensure that no Parachute Regiment flags are allowed at the Apprentice Boys’ parade. The decision, according to the council, aims to promote a peaceful and respectful environment during the event, emphasizing the importance of unity and inclusivity. The Apprentice Boys of Derry is a society that aims to commemorate the 1689 Siege of Derry when Catholic James II of England and Ireland and VII of Scotland laid siege to the walled city, at the time a Protestant stronghold.
Apprentice Boys parades once regularly led to civil unrest, but recently a more conciliatory approach has taken place. Derry and Strabane District Council and the PSNI are aiming to make the 2023 event as trouble-free as possible.