Belfast Telegraph

Why march protest veteran Dipper has own questions to answer on parade

By Nelson McCausland

The name of Frank "Dipper" Dempsey is well-known in both nationalist and unionist circles. His pedigree as a veteran republican is well-established, and many unionists know him as the spokesman for the Carrick Hill residents in Belfast, as well as a central figure in protests against loyal order parades in Clifton Street and Donegall Street.

Dempsey is often to be seen standing with nationalist and republican politicians and some "concerned residents" in the vicinity of Carrick Hill, watching loyal order parades, or protesting against them.

But this past weekend, the centenary of the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin, Frank was on parade, rather than watching a parade.

A striking photograph has been circulating in social media with him dressed for one of the centenary republican parades on the Falls Road. Some of the other participants were turned out in period dress from 1916, but Frank Dempsey's attire was much more contemporary than that.

He was dressed in a black jacket with a D Company 2nd Battalion badge, with matching black tie, black gloves and black beret and a D Company armband.

These refer to D Company, 2nd Battalion, of the Provisional IRA, which operated in the lower Falls during the Troubles, and over the Easter weekend the lower Falls was bedecked with Provisional IRA D Company flags.

Some of the flags around west Belfast over the Easter period were the traditional republican tricolour and the starry plough, and it could be argued by republicans that these related to 1916.

But that is certainly not the case with the D Company flags and armbands. The reference here was clearly to the Provisional IRA - not some Old IRA.

Of course, this is not the first time that Frank Dempsey has identified with D Company of the Provisionals.

Back in 2012, the Andersonstown News carried a report of an IRA reunion for D Company of the Provisional IRA. Around 600 "former members" of D Company gathered for the event, which was organised by the Falls Cultural Society and the D Company Ex-Volunteers and Prisoners Association.

The guest of honour was Billy McKee, one of the founders of the Provisional IRA and the first OC of the Provos in Belfast. He presented memorials to the families of the 14 members of D Company who had been killed during the Troubles.

Then, Frank "Dipper" Dempsey was given the task of presenting a special gold medal to Billy McKee himself, "in recognition of his central part in the republican struggle". There was even a photograph of the presentation.

For those not familiar with Billy McKee, the journalist Ed Moloney stated that McKee authorised a number of sectarian IRA attacks on Protestants.

McKee is also noteworthy for his refusal to condemn the IRA atrocity known as Bloody Friday, in which nine people were killed and 130 injured.

In 2012, Frank Dempsey was centre-stage at a D Company Provisional IRA "reunion", and in 2016 he was parading up the Falls Road in black beret and gloves and wearing a D Company armband.

As regards the Sunday parade for which Frank was all dressed up, there was - in addition to the main Sinn Fein parade - a separate annual parade organised by the Falls Cultural Society (the same organisation that co-organised the Provisional IRA "reunion").

The Falls Cultural Society marched from Barrack Street to the D Company memorial garden on the Falls Road, which contains several memorials.

One of them is a memorial to "deceased POWs" from the area, and the list includes Gerry Adams' father, Gerry Adams snr, and his uncle, Dominic Adams. That is the same Dominic Adams I mentioned last week - the IRA commander in Coventry at the time of the Coventry bomb, when the IRA murdered five innocent people.

So, if Frank Dempsey is ever willing to be interviewed by the media, there are certainly a lot of questions that could be put to him.

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