Parade passed off peacefully

I want to share a couple of observations regarding your piece on the Apprentice Boys parade in Stotfold on December 16 and on some of the correspondence which has subsequently appeared in your paper. I appreciate that the press will always find themselves

I want to share a couple of observations regarding your piece on the Apprentice Boys parade in Stotfold on December 16 and on some of the correspondence which has subsequently appeared in your paper.

I appreciate that the press will always find themselves in a no-win situation where, no matter what they print, they will never please everybody. However, I do feel that the use of the word "controversial" in your headline was sensationalist given that the parade passed off without any hint of incident or confrontation. I was one of the Marshals stewarding the parade and the only comments that I heard from residents were enquiries about the significance of the event and wholesome praise for the quality of the two bands on parade.

To put any potential inconvenience into perspective I would point out that the parade passed any given point within a matter of minutes and, where possible based on safety considerations, oncoming traffic was facilitated unhindered. This would be comparable with local Remembrance Sunday parades, scouts parades etc. The parade was marshalled by certificated club personnel who were well briefed on their responsibilities and the police were in contact with the chief marshal at all times. I should add that representatives from both bands were included in the pre-parade briefing so that they too fully understood what was expected from them.

Words that could be interpreted as being inflammatory, such as "sectarian" and "bigoted", have been used in correspondence about the parade and this aspect is particularly ironic, as the Apprentice Boys Association has been widely praised by community, political & religious leaders for their willingness to engage in discussions about their parades in Londonderry and elsewhere. For instance, the August 12 parade in Londonderry is now an integral part of the highly acclaimed Maiden City Festival, a week long series of events including poetry recitals, music concerts and drama that is supported and promoted in conjunction with Derry City Council and the Government.

Speaking personally, I would certainly take issue with anyone who used these words to describe my outlook on life. I was born and raised in the Irish Republic - family still living in Co Cavan and in Co Leitrim - and I am proud to say that I have many friends (here and there) of differing religious persuasions, so a live and let live attitude is second nature to me. Other members of our Club have, like myself, been involved in the making of an Irish language film on the history of our culture - this film is financed, among others by the Irish Government and will be available to schools all across the island of Ireland - hardly the actions of a bunch of sectarian bigots!

It is sometimes said by media people that there is no such thing as bad publicity and this is a case in point, because the Luton & Bedford Apprentice Boys Club has experienced a significant increase in membership enquiries over the last two weeks!

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JOHN McADAM, Past President, Luton & Bedford ABOD, Magpie Crescent, Stewartby, Bedford

* "In defence of the Loyal Orders", I write in relation to recent coverage of the Stotfold Apprentice Boys of Derry parade and the few letters received that portray the event and participants in negative terms. I will touch on the agendas of those who would seek to vilify the Loyal Orders (including the Apprentice Boys of Derry and Orange Order).

First, let me begin with an absolute statement of fact. The Stotfold parade was entirely peaceful, legal, well organised, professionally marshalled and policed and there were no incidents. The march was an historical celebration and was against no one.

In terms of some negative comments let me put in context why those with wider agendas have previously maligned the Loyal Orders:

1. The Loyal Orders are a vibrant unifying force, transcending social class and denomination within the Reformed Faith. They have been under attack from republican agitators (particularly in Ireland and Scotland) post 1994, when the republican movement moved from wholesale violence into more sophisticated political and social agitation. The Loyal Orders bore the brunt of engineered propaganda campaigns aimed at causing division and mistrust. This position was exacerbated by an intellectually lazy media which portrayed complex events in simplistic and sensational terms.

2. The propaganda campaigns attempted to drive the professional classes out of the Orders by maligning their respectability. This was an orchestrated to attempt to weaken political, religious and social influence of the Orders - a campaign that failed resolutely. For example, the Orange Order is represented in both the House of Commons and House of Lords and an Orange Lodge was recently formed in the Palace of Westminster.

3. Republicans viewed and continue to view the Loyal Orders as a stumbling block in their undemocratic wishes to dismantle the Union (not only in Northern Ireland) and eventually the destruction of the monarchy.

In closing, do not be taken in by those who seek to vilify the marchers. Be careful to understand the agenda of those who sensationalise and detract from peaceful public assembly.

BOB, St Neots

* In response to the letter by J Wickham "Put aside our differences" Comet January 4 2007. I agree with the sentiments about England being a Christian country. In fact the state religion being Anglican follows the doctrinal principles of the Reformed (Protestant) faith. RP Blakney expressed with eloquence:

"The Reformation has been the stay, and bulwark, and glory of England. When Britain became Protestant, taking the Word of God for her guide, - when the principles of the Bible regulated all her actions and legislation, - when she acknowledged it as her first duty and highest privilege, as a nation, to advance the cause of Christ, and framed her laws and institutions to that end only, she enjoyed the favour of Heaven, and became great; her people rose in character and intelligence, and manliness and honesty distinguished their conduct. Her arms prevailed; and the British constitution and British laws - the best that ever existed - were the admiration and praise of all the earth."

You dismiss the Orange Institution with strong words. I would point out; the Orange Institution is Bible based and Christian. It works throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, USA, Australia, West Africa and others in Christian outreach and Biblical evangelism. Members of the Order fought in huge numbers in World War 1 (estimated at 200,000 members) with a number winning the Victoria Cross during the Battle of the Somme. In recent times, Orange members continue to serve with Crown Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and with UN Forces in various peacekeeping duties. The Orange Institution raises hundreds of thousands of pounds for good works annually. The Orange Institution made very significant contributions to the establishment of society in Australia and Canada throughout the 19th century and continues as a positive and influential socio-religious organisation, operating in numerous regions.

In closing, the parade had nothing to do with perpetuation of 'old feuds'. It is a celebration of a key event in British history that led to the eventual ascension of William III to the English throne. This led to the establishment of a truly free Parliamentary system, and civil and religious liberty for all. These are the tenets of what is celebrated.