Belfast RIR homecoming parade approved
A Belfast homecoming parade for soldiers returning from Afghanistan is a step closer.
City councillors have passed a motion inviting the Ministry of Defence to organise an event to recognise Royal Irish Regiment and Irish Guards personnel who have completed their six-month tour of duty in Helmand province.
The DUP, Ulster Unionists, Alliance and PUP backed the motion which was won by 26 votes to 20 at a specially convened meeting in Belfast City Hall last night.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted against the motion.
“I am delighted,” said Ian Crozier of the DUP, who proposed the motion.
“I am delighted that the soldiers from Belfast and Northern Ireland will get the recognition they deserve.”
Councillors, who stood for a minute’s silence to remember Constable Ronan Kerr, who was murdered at the weekend, took a decision not to debate the contentious parade issue.
Ulster Unionist Davy Brown said: “There’s no chance of anybody changing their mind on this.”
During a previous military parade in 2008 a massive security operation was mounted to keep republicans and loyalists apart.
“We see this as very much a divisive issue for the people right across the city,” said Sinn Fein’s Gerard O’Neill.
Pádraic MacCoitir, spokesman for the hardline republican splinter group éirígí said: “éirígí has shown in the past that it is prepared to actively oppose the British military presence in Ireland and we will have no compunction about doing so again. We will not stand idly by.”
The MoD has declined to get embroiled in the parading row and is remaining tight-lipped about details of any of the events.
About 30,000 people turned out for a homecoming parade through Belfast city centre for British military personnel returning from Afghanistan in November 2008. Previously security sources have said a parade will not take place in Belfast because of security cost implications.