Loyalist flute band plays in Portrush
Critics had claimed the event could send out the wrong message about Northern Ireland when the eyes of the world are upon it.
Loyalist flute band music played in Portrush town as the third round of the Open Championship reached its conclusion a mile away.
Several hundred people gathered as the Portrush Sons of Ulster held an outdoor concert in the seaside town on Saturday evening, with a number of bands taking to the stage.
Critics had claimed the event could send out the wrong message about Northern Ireland when the eyes of the world are upon it, but supporters insisted it was an opportunity to showcase the loyalist culture to a wider audience.
This year, due to the logistical challenges presented by the golfing major, in particular the lack of parking spaces, the band downsized the event, cancelling the traditional parade through the town in favour of a static outdoor concert.
Young and old watched in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere as the first band, the William King Memorial, took to the stage of the amphitheatre at about 6.30pm.
Diane Thompson from Londonderry travelled with her mother and sister to watch her son perform.
“This is a traditional event, it happens every year,” she said.
“Why should anyone be critical? This is something that has been happening in Portrush before the golf appeared.
“This has always be here and it will be here after the golf has left, so why change it?”
Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, stressed that The Open was a guest among the local community.
“We are very conscious that The Open comes to town once every X years,” he said, when asked about the flute bands.
“We are very conscious that we are guests here. We’re guests every year at the place we go.
“As guests we are very conscious that we want to be part of the community.
“We are very clear that we want to spend money in the community. We want to help with legacy funds in the community.
“But we will be gone in a couple of weeks. And so we want to live with the community.”
He added: “There’s always things going on around the golf, and that’s wonderful, and the community carries on.
“Our job is to put on the Open Championship and to respect the fact that we are guests.”
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