Sunday Life

Flute me!

By Stephen Breen
17 October 2004

A BITTER war-of-words erupted last night between nationalists and unionists after a Scottish court ruled 'The Sash' was NOT a sectarian song.

Sinn Fein and the DUP clashed, after it emerged Scot, Barry Longmire, who was accused of singing sectarian songs outside a police station, was acquitted of breaking anti-bigotry laws.

Longmire (18), from Lankashire, was cleared at Hamilton Sheriff Court, after his solicitor convinced the judge 'The Sash' was not a sectarian song.

The teenager faced religious prejudice charges.

But his acquittal has caused shockwaves through the Scottish legal system.

His solicitor told the court: "The Sash is a folk song of family bonds in the Orange tradition. Its words are not offensive to anyone.

"The Sash - in itself - is not sectarian. If it was being sung outside a Celtic club to wind people up, then the legislation would come into play."

DUP Assemblyman, Nelson McCausland, said the court ruling "cannot" be ignored in Northern Ireland.

But Sinn Fein MLA, Michael Browne, slammed the court's decision - and insisted the song was "definitely" sectarian.

Said Mr McCausland: "This is an important decision and, while it has been made in a Scottish court rather than here in Northern Ireland, it is a landmark decision, which cannot be ignored.

"The Parades Commission and others would do well to take note of it, when they are making future decisions about parades.

"I welcome this decision in Scotland, because The Sash is a traditional folk song and in no way sectarian. That has always been the view of the Orange Order, and it has now been confirmed by the court ruling.

"We often hear republicans condemn The Sash as a sectarian song, and I have even heard the tune described as sectarian, but this is simply a reflection of the prejudice and intolerance of those republicans."

But Mr Browne hit out at the DUP's stance on the song, saying: "I don't think the Scottish court would have been too well versed in our political situation - that's why they have made this ruling.

"The perception of The Sash in my experience is sectarian, because it has been used to heighten tensions - especially in interface areas.

"The song has been adopted by an organisation which is sectarian, and I've no doubt thousands of nationalists would also tell the Scottish court how this song has been used to stir up trouble."

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