Belfast Telegraph

Cancel Castlederg parade - Villiers

A republican parade commemorating dead IRA men in a town close to the Irish border should be called off, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said.

Unionists claimed Sunday's demonstration in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, to commemorate Provisionals killed in the Troubles was a glorification of terrorism. Two of the dead were blown up by a bomb which they had planned to plant in Castlederg - one of the most bombed towns in Northern Ireland.

Relatives of local victims have met the Secretary of State and urged her to ban the parade.

She said she did not have the power to do so, but said afterwards: "Everyone who wants to build a genuinely shared future for Northern Ireland needs to consider the impact of their actions on people from different parts of the community. This parade is damaging to community relations and even at this late stage I would call upon the organisers to think again and call it off."

She held talks with representatives of the Derg Valley Victims' Voice lobby group, which is organising a protest against the march. Sinn Fein argued the route has already been changed to avoid the most contentious areas and said it wanted to promote the concept of a "shared space" at the centre of the town.

Ms Villiers added: "There is no doubt that this deeply insensitive parade is causing great hurt and distress to many victims of terrorism in the west Tyrone area and the rest of Northern Ireland. This Government has always made clear that politically motivated violence, by any side, was never justified and we condemn attempts to commemorate or legitimise terrorism."

The organisers had volunteered to alter the original planned route of the march, to avoid the town's war memorial, but the Parades Commission has now placed further restrictions on the event, taking it away from the central Diamond area of Castlederg. It says the body has no power to ban a parade outright.

The Tyrone Volunteers Day event on August 11 will mark the deaths of Castlederg IRA men Seamus Harvey, 23, and Gerard McGlynn, 20, who died in 1973 when a car bomb they were understood to be transporting to the town detonated early. The explosion happened Irish customs post across the border in Co Donegal.

Republicans in Co Tyrone hold the annual "Volunteers Day" to commemorate those who died in the conflict. Rotating the venue and time to coincide with particular events and dates, Castlederg was chosen this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths of the two IRA men. But the move provoked intense anger from some victims of IRA violence, who called for it to be banned completely. Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson denounced the proposed event as "insensitive and inappropriate".

Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member Barry McElduff said: "Sinn Fein believe that there can be no hierarchy of victims and that we all should have the opportunity to remember our dead. Each November, and indeed at other times of the year, those with a British identity commemorate the British Crown forces who have died. Many in Ireland suffered at the hands of these forces, yet the commemorations are respected. Theresa Villiers should respect the right of Irish people to remember with dignity their patriot dead."

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