Sinn Fein has hit back at TUV leader Jim Allister’s comments over a hunger strike commemoration in Dungiven.
East Londonderry MLA Cathal O hOisin spoke after Mr Allister poured scorn on the PSNI and Parades Commission for what he deemed “gross disparity” in the policing of republican and unionist events.
The Dungiven native said that the republican parade held last month in the town “was held with the support of the vast majority of residents”.
He said: “There was full community consultation during the lead-up to the parade as well as full consultation with the PSNI on several occasions.
“Sinn Fein has never nor never will impose a parade upon a community where it is not welcome.
“The parade was applied for through the Parades Commission with the full understanding that there would be historical re-enactments through street theatre.”
He added: “This was also agreed with the PSNI, who were content that all replica weapons on show were fully licensed and legal.
“This resulted in a parade that was in effect self-policing, as over 400 stewards were deployed.”
Mr O hOisin said the event in Dungiven was “in stark contrast to the contentious loyal order parades that are intent on coat-trailing through nationalist areas that cost the taxpayer millions of pound from an already overstretched policing budget”. He added: “Jim Allister would be better deployed in working to resolve these contentious parades emanating from within his own community rather than criticise the hunger strike commemoration.
“In fact, he should use it as a template to which all parades should aspire to, in that it was held within a supportive community, it was self-policing, met and maintained the criteria set by the Parades Commission and therefore was not a cost to the local taxpayer.”
Mr Allister said: “I’m sure that is all very comforting to the tiny Protestant minority in Dungiven.
“The parading legislation must apply equally to everyone. Why must a loyal order parade go through every legal hoop and a Sinn Fein parade go ahead with no involvement from the Parades Commission, no police supervision and in fact the police withdrawing at the request of Sinn Fein in order to allow them to have their terrorism jamboree with people dressed as terrorists carrying replica weapons and people dressed as police and soldiers to glorify terrorism?
“This is indicative of the distorted imbalance over parading.”
Police said that officers were deployed to assist the organisers and had remained on the outskirts of Dungiven.
A PSNI spokeswoman stressed that the Dungiven event was a “legally notified parade”.
Mr Allister has demanded a meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott over the police stance at the Dungiven event.
The National Hunger Strike commemoration took place on Sunday, August 5 and was addressed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
A Parades Commission spokes-man confirmed it received correspondence “raising concerns over reports of the display of inappropriate material at an event notified in Dungiven” during the hunger strike commemoration, and would be investigating.