'Royal Regiments' show raises red flag on council Members of Irish stock urge cancellation

November 18, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

The Redcoats are coming to Baltimore -- and City Council members of Irish descent are mounting a charge to block their arrival.

The British army troops are part of "Royal Regiments on Parade," a program by 80-odd military musicians on a nationwide tour that includes a performance at the Baltimore Arena Dec. 8.

Irish-American council members want the city to cancel a contract with the tour's promoter, contending that the performers are from units that have been involved in what they termed murder and human right violations against civilians in Northern Ireland.

"It is appalling and galling to a great number of Irish in this city that we would stand by and let [these troops] come into our arena," Councilman Martin O'Malley, D-3rd, said yesterday.

"This is not censorship. This is drawing the line on acceptable, city-sponsored entertainment," he said.

Mr. O'Malley and Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, appearing before the Board of Estimates, likened the performance to an appearance by the color guard of the Ku Klux Klan, which they said would be widely condemned.

"This is no less offensive to the Irish-American community of Baltimore. This is quite simply an outrage and should not be allowed to occur," said Mr. Murphy, D-6th.

But representatives of the arena, the British Embassy in Washington and a local organization of Scottish descendants characterized the efforts to keep the "Royal Regiment" musicians from appearing here as absurd and misguided.

"I think it's ridiculous to keep the public from seeing a show with fine marching and music just because they have been used to keep the peace in Northern Ireland," said Alfred E. Schudel, past president of the St. Andrew's Society of Baltimore, which has bought a block of 600 tickets to the event.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington said, "People who are responsible for human rights violations in Northern Ireland are the people who go around blowing up people. The British Army's role is to support the police to try and restore law and order."

He said members of all three regiments scheduled to appear -- the Princess of Wales's Royal and Royal Anglian regiments and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders -- have served in Northern Ireland but, "It is unlikely the bandsmen have done stints in Northern Ireland."

The board yesterday deferred action until next Wednesday on the request to cancel the contract.

Under the city's agreement with Centre Management, the private firm that operates the city-owned Arena, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has final approval of all bookings. But he has never blocked a booking, Arena spokeswoman Edie Brown said.

The mayor was not at yesterday's Board of Estimates meeting because he was at an international drug conference here. But spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said that the mayor "is willing to look into this matter based on the concerns raised."

James Murtha, spokesman for the New York-based company promoting the "Royal Regiments" tour, said he was not aware of similar attempts to cancel concerts in any of the more than 50 cities where the group has appeared since September. "It's an entertainment event. People have the right to protest. But the public should have the right to buy a ticket to see a show," he said.

In 1989, City Council members tried unsuccessfully to prevent an appearance at the Arena by members of the British Black Watch regiment. In that case, the council did not act until the day before the scheduled concert, said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who also is of Irish descent.

"This time, we acted as soon as we heard," she said. "We don't want these people here in this city."

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