A prominent republican and former IRA chief has called for an end to military paraphernalia at nationalist parades.
Sean Murray — who served 12 years in prison after being convicted for explosive offences — said the use of replica weapons and military uniforms and symbols at republican events is at odds with the direction mainstream republicanism is currently heading.
He said dialogue is needed within republicanism on the inclusion of such contentious items in order to pave the way for greater reconciliation.
Murray’s comments come a month after controversy following a National Hunger Strike commemoration in Dungiven, Co Londonderry, at which replica firearms were brandished.
He also hit out at the UVF who he said stoked up tensions during recent high-profile parades at which there were clashes between rioters and police.
The veteran republican has been heavily involved in parading discussions in the past between residents and members of the Orange Order in north and west Belfast. Murray posted the comments in response to an article by security writer Brian Rowan on the EamonnMallie.com website about tensions over the marching season.
He wrote: “As a republican, I don’t intend to duck my responsibility in examining how we manifest our culture at various parades.
“While republican parade routes are usually free of contention, confining their parades to republican areas or neutral zones, we need to question the display of replica weapons as a form of pageantry at some hunger strike commemorations.
“What message does this send out in the context of a genuine drive for reconciliation and nation-building?
“Do some of our bands in military-style uniform, with militarist symbols on drums, convey a sense of demilitarisation and an acceptance of peaceful and democratic means? These and other questions are already being debated within republican circles and I have addressed some of these issues with the bands themselves.
“The imagery on display with a small number of bands is at variance with current republican thinking and direction. So let us revisit this debate and reach a consensus on the way forward.”
The UVF has been blamed by many for orchestrating riots in the wake of a republican parade in north Belfast last week, and Murray also accused the organisation of being behind unrest during a loyalist march along Donegall Street last month.
“The violence was clearly organised and orchestrated by the UVF, irrespective of what levels of command it received clearance (from),” he said.
“They are still in conflict mode.
Putting large numbers of known UVF heads in intimidatory mode into Donegall Street on August 25 illustrates their mindset.”