Belfast Telegraph

UDA parade on Belfast's Ormeau Road - remove paramilitary trappings says DUP

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has called for the removal of flags and emblems supporting paramilitaries ahead of a controversial parade in Belfast.

A parade to commemorate two UDA men, as well as those killed in the two World Wars and through the Troubles, is to take place in the Ormeau Road area on Friday night.

It has sparked controversy given its links to a loyalist terrorist organisation and that in the past Parades Commission determinations have been breached. There have also been calls for paramilitary flags, that have been hoisted around the area to be taken down.

DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly and MLA Christopher Stalford could not be contacted for a comment, however, their party said: "Paramilitaries should have disappeared from the scene long ago.

"The DUP condemns all those who cling to criminality and violence. Flags or any other emblems supporting paramilitaries have no place in our communities. We want to have them all removed."

Around 300 people and 20 bands are expected to take part. Organisers have said the parade is to commemorate those from the area that had lost their lives in both World Wars and during the Troubles.

It will also commemorate the deaths of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder, the Parades Commission said. They were killed by the IRA on the Ormeau Road in 1994 and linked to the Sean Graham bookmakers gun attack in the area which killed five people two years earlier.

In past parades, UDA paramilitary trappings has formed part of the procession.

The Parades Commission said it had received "strong representation" from those opposed to the parade and its associations with the illegal organisation.

"Whilst many other local people may perceive these two men negatively, the organiser has asserted the rights of communities to pay respect to their dead," the Parades Commission said in its ruling.

It said that an act of remembrance at a memorial garden at the end of the parade would be a "private matter for that community," taking place in a location "where residents and those in attendance are wholly supportive of that act of remembrance".

The organiser pointed to the many similar events that took part in the republican community.

The Parades Commission has imposed conditions on the route of the parade and urged those taking part to be "respectful".

"Namely there shall be no singing, chanting or loud drumming and that marching should be dignified," the commission said in its ruling.

It also said there should be no paramilitary-style clothing worn and flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to proscribed organisation "shall in no circumstances be displayed".

The Parades Commission said it was up to the parade organiser to ensure all taking part were aware of the conditions imposed.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said it should not be up to the Parades Commission to solely handle contentious parades and there was a need for a "legal framework" for the flying of flags across all Northern Ireland.

"This is not about being anti-unionist," she said told the BBC, "I say the same for any flag no matter who it is for.

"For me this is about being anti-paramilitary and all parties, including the DUP should oppose paramilitary displays."

In a debate on the Stephen Nolan Show she said the issue had descended into the "whataboutery Olympics".

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