Belfast Telegraph

We can handle any trouble in weekend of marches, PSNI chief assures Villiers

By Liam Clarke

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has advised Secretary of State Theresa Villiers that his force can handle all the disputed marches this weekend without bringing in extra resources from Britain.

This removes any possible grounds that Ms Villiers had to ban the Castlederg republican parade, the anti-internment march in Belfast tomorrow evening, the Apprentice Boys march in Castlederg on Saturday, or any of the counter-demonstrations.

This afternoon she will meet Derg Valley Victims' Voice, which represents victims of IRA violence opposed to the republican event, and explain the situation.

She is also expected to make a statement on the current state of affairs.

"I can confirm that we are not requesting any officers under mutual aid to cover these events. That is an indication that we can handle the situation," a senior police source said.

Mr Baggott will have passed this on to Ms Villiers (right) when she rang him yesterday.

Unionists have been urging her to ban Sunday's republican parade, which is being staged in Castlederg for the first time to mark Tyrone Volunteers Day.

The focus this year is the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Gerard McGlynn and Seamus Harvey, two young IRA men who were killed transporting a bomb to Castlederg.

The device exploded prematurely just across the border in Donegal.

Castlederg's Sinn Fein branch, the Harvey/McGlynn/Connolly Cumann, is named after the two men.

The Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, has urged her to halt it under different grounds – the 2006 Terrorism Act.

The Act bans the glorification of terrorism.

Mr Nesbitt suggested that a judicial review of the parade was "sustainable" if she did not act as he suggested.

Yesterday Ms Villiers, who was on compassionate leave following the death of her father, returned to work early and phoned him to say she could not agree.

"I spoke to Theresa Villiers this afternoon and she made clear her interpretation of the Terrorism Act is that glorifying terrorism is only illegal if the statements made are intended to encourage people to emulate past terrorist actions," he said, expressing disappointment that the Secretary of State, a barrister, did not agree with him. He added: "The Ulster Unionist Party will now consider what remaining avenues remain open to stop the glorification of terrorism planned for Castlederg this Sunday.

"Should the parade go ahead, we call on everyone, whether they are participants, spectators or protesters, to behave in a lawful, peaceful and respectful manner."

All this is due to be aired when Ms Villiers meets representatives of victims.

The delegation was being finalised last night.

It will include Gary Bogle and other members of Derg Valley Victims' Voice.

They will be accompanied by a range of politicians including Arlene Foster, the DUP minister who represents the neighbouring constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone; Ross Hussey, the local UUP MLA, and his brother Derek, a local councillor. Tom Buchanan of the DUP may also be present.

"I don't feel they should be glorifying terrorism in this way.

"There are a lot of people in Castlederg who have suffered at the hands of the IRA and holding an event like this is morally repugnant considering what they were intending to do," Mr Bogle said.

Ms Foster accepted that the parade would not now be banned.

"Whilst the Secretary of State can only ban the parade on the recommendation of the Chief Constable, I would urge her to speak out against this event.

"The fact that anyone would seek to organise a parade glorifying terror and crime anywhere in the United Kingdom is a public disgrace," she said.

Ross Hussey will be asking Ms Villiers for a ban.

"How she can come to the opinion that they are not glorifying terrorism is beyond me," he said.

"This can act as a recruiting campaign for dissidents.

"Sinn Fein is basically saying that bringing a bomb into a town is right. That sort of message can obviously affect people who are young, vulnerable and easily led."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph