The PSNI has been criticised for its handling of a loyalist band parade in Rasharkin.

The Rasharkin Residents Association says it is considering legal action after police changed the agreed route of the parade without consulting the Parades Commission.

The parade was delayed for over three hours after a suspicious object was found at the Orange Hall in Main Street at around 7pm on Friday night.

Main Street, along which the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band were due to march, was cordoned off and army bomb experts moved in as hundreds of band supporters cheered.

The bomb scare was later declared a hoax.

The parade eventually got underway using an alternate route.

Local DUP councillor John Finlay said the hoax alert was an attempt to block the parade.

�I totally condemn those responsible for this suspicious object planted outside the Orange Hall in Rasharkin.

�These acts lie in the past. It is sad that a minority have sought to heighten tensions here this evening and in effect block the parade,� he said.

North Antrim Sinn F�in MLA Daith� McKay says the PSNIs decision to reroute a parade in Rasharkin was illegal.

�After a hoax bomb was placed at the Orange Hall tonight the parade was delayed until well after 10 oclock. It was nonsensical for any parade to be taking place after that time and it was also astounding that senior PSNI officers gave the go ahead for an alternative route for this parade without consulting with the Parades Commission. The question which needs to be asked of them is why did they do that and under whose direction?

�An inappropriate number of police officers were in place to deal with thousands of loyalists who were intoxicated, threw bottles and threatened huge disorder in the village. Because they threatened major disorder the police then took the decision to force the parade through by an illegal route. They had no right to do this.�

In a statement PSNI Chief Inspector Ryan Henderson said:�Dedicated work had gone on behind the scenes by parade and protest organisers and community leaders in the run-up to last nights parade to reduce the
�However due to the actions of irresponsible individuals intent on increasing tensions and division who deliberately placed a suspicious object in the area knowing full well the disruption and difficulties this would cause, the parade was postponed for a period of time.

�As the safety of everyone in the area was our first priority, the decision was taken that it was in the best interests of everyone to allow the parade to proceed along the route in reverse. This gave more time to ensure that the device would be made safe and reduced the even greater delay that would have resulted if the original direction of the parade has been used. This was a practical solution to a problem that was not of the making of the parade organisers or the residents group.

�The parade passed largely without major incident. A brief attempt to halt the parade was quickly dealt with and the parade able to pass. No arrests were made on the evening. A dedicated team has been set up to examine footage collected by our video evidence teams and any disorder captured on that footage will be dealt with.

�We look forward to continuing to work closely with the whole community of Rasharkin in the future to address any issues of concern. It is crucial that people continue to engage in dialogue and find long-term acceptable solutions to local issues.�

Last year there was minor trouble at the parade when some missiles were thrown at marchers.

Published date on the 21st of August 2010
Article taken from the UTV News