18,000 loyalists expected for 'Ulster Day' march to commemorate UVF formation
Organisers of a loyalist parade this weekend to commemorate the formation of the UVF say they expect around 18,000 people to take part.
The 'Ulster Day' march will take place this Saturday to mark both the centenary of the UVF and 101st anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
The parade will set off from Peters Hill at 11am, proceeding along the Shankill, Woodvale and Ballygomartin Roads before finishing in the Glencairn estate where speeches will be delivered. The parade will then make its return along the same route.
The event has been organised by the Fernhill Committee of the West Belfast Athletic and Cultural Society.
In a notification to the Parades Commission, the organisers said they expect 8,000 including 42 bands to take part in the parade with 10,000 supporters predicted.
A Fernhill spokesman said: "The committee would implore those availing of this opportunity to be sensitive to the effort and intent of the celebration.
"Our earnest appeal is for those covering this event to recognise the community involvement, historical integrity and scale of events which will involve up to 8,000 participants and numerous thousands of spectators.
"This is a genuine attempt by numerous community stakeholders to recreate a moment in history and every effort has been made to honour actual events in as accurate a manner as is possible."
In April up to 10,000 loyalists took part in a parade through east Belfast to mark the centenary of the UVF.
Marchers wore period costumes and some carried replica weapons. It passed off without incident. Organisers said that the emphasis was firmly on marking events of 1913, insisting there was no link with modern day paramilitaries.
There was controversy ahead of the parade when hundreds of UVF flags were erected along the route.
The paramilitary group of the same name was formed in the 1960s.
The original UVF was formed in 1913 to fight Home Rule, one year after almost half-a-million men and women signed the Ulster Covenant.
Last year Orange Order chiefs apologised for the behaviour of a bandsman who was pictured urinating outside the Catholic church of St Matthew's on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast during the Ulster Covenant commemoration parade.