Loyalist Jackie McDonald says he still wants to engage in talks with members of the republican and nationalist communities in a bid overcome sectarianism and move forward.
In a surprise move last night, the UDA boss issued an open letter saying he appreciated some of the reasons why the Sarsfield GAC committee cancelled his planned appearance at the club on Wednesday but added that such meetings were needed if both communities wanted to build a better future.
McDonald, as well as other prominent loyalist figures such as Colin Halliday and Frankie Gallagher from the Ulster Political Research Group, had been invited to attend a special panel discussion at the west Belfast club, which was organised by the Standing Northern Ireland Peace Process.
However, the club itself was unaware the so-called ‘brigadier’ of the South Belfast wing would be visiting until contacted by the media and many distressed members whose relatives were murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.
Mr McDonald said he was disappointed the panel discussion had been cancelled but acknowledged some of the reasons why. “We very much appreciate the fear and hurt still being felt by many people in the Nationalist/Republican community because of their experiences during our time of inter-communal conflict,” he said in his open letter. “This is also very true for many in our own community who also bear the scars of such hurt.”
“It is indeed a mutually shared pain that we have acknowledged in our previous open evenings in Taughmonagh Social Club.
“There are also many in both communities, holding onto their understandable anger and there are still many who continue to nurture blantantly sectarian attitudes and behaviour.