Belfast Telegraph

Top loyalist bids to calm march fears

By Brian Rowan

One of the UDA’s most senior leaders has confirmed he will march in Belfast next month as part of a parade and event to mark unionist opposition to Home Rule a century ago.

Jackie McDonald told the Belfast Telegraph: “I’m going as a loyalist, along with many friends of mine.”

But just days ago, he questioned whether parts of the nationalist community would “feel threatened” as he described a parade involving the UVF and UDA.

McDonald specifically mentioned the Short Strand in east Belfast — the scene of an organised UVF attack last summer.

The senior loyalist was speaking last week at the Future of Loyalism event — part of the Political Studies Association conference in Belfast.

There, describing the May 19 march to Ormeau Park, organised by the Joint Unionist Centenary Committee, he said: “They’re allowing loyalism to join. The Orange and the bands, of course, will take the first part of the parade, and then it will be the UVF in the Somme gear and the UDA will be suited and booted.’’

“If you’re a nationalist, and this parade passes parts of the Short Strand or wherever, how are you going to feel?” he asked. “Are you going to feel threatened?”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, McDonald has now confirmed that he intends to be there.

“I support the parade,” he said. “This is not in any way meant to be offensive or triumphalist.”

Asked how the UDA would be “suited and booted”, McDonald responded: “The days of paramilitary uniforms are gone. Whichever side of the community is having its celebration, it should take into consideration the feelings and the concerns of the other community.’’

“The organisers have made strenuous efforts to ensure that this is a peaceful day,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s leader on Belfast City Council, Jim McVeigh, said: “Our primary concern is feeder parades.

“We are not opposed to the rally in Ormeau Park. But we have great concerns about contentious feeder parades and the impact on host communities.

“So far the organisers have refused to meet us, but we want to meet with them to resolve issues.”

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