Belfast Telegraph

Man cleared over Black murder 'won't be at dissident march'

By Staff Reporter

A dissident republican parade planned for Saturday is to go ahead after its organisers gave assurances that a man cleared over involvement in the murder of a prison officer would not be participating in the march.

The Parades Commission said yesterday that its position on the anti-internment procession in Belfast city centre remained unchanged, amid calls for the march to be banned.

The outcry stemmed from media reports that Damien McLaughlin was to have a leading role in the march.

McLaughlin had been accused of providing a car that was used in the murder of David Black, who was gunned down on his way to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012.

However, the case against him collapsed in June and McLaughlin - who has a previous conviction for possession of firearms - walked from the court a free man.

His mooted appearance at the upcoming dissident parade came as he was recently presented with a trophy by fellow dissidents in celebration of his acquittal.

The prospect of McLaughlin's involvement angered unionists and Kyle Black, the grieving son of the murdered prison officer, who backed calls for the Parades Commission to review its original determination.

The body can review its original decision if it receives any "fresh information or representations" which it did not previously consider or take into account. It may then amend, revoke or uphold its earlier decision.

Addressing this upcoming dissident parade, the Commission said an organiser had contacted it directly to deny that McLaughlin - who had attended the event in 2016 - would be in attendance.

"The Commission is aware of recent media reports about a specific individual 'leading the parade'," it said.

"(We have) received confirmation from the organiser that the individual concerned has not been invited to participate in the parade in any way."

The body added that the issue had also not impacted on it's original determination, although it stressed that restrictions remained in place.

"The Commission has determined that the parade may, under certain conditions, process its notified route from Writer's Square along Royal Avenue to Donegall Square North.

"It is restricted to 500 participants, must adhere strictly to its notified timings of 1.15pm to dispersal at 2pm, and must comply with conditions regarding conduct."

The commission said its decision "reflects the desirability of maintaining the city centre as a civic space accessible to all, including those who wish to express diverse and controversial views".

The news has "bitterly disappointed" the DUP's Gavin Robinson, who revealed he had raised concerns with the Commission that dissident marchers will be allowed to pass the spot where two UDR soldiers were murdered, without any restrictions imposed. James Cummings and Frederick Starrett, both 22, were killed by an IRA bomb while setting up a vehicle checkpoint at Royal Avenue in Belfast in February 1988.

"No one has ever been convicted for the murder of these two men, who are still commemorated every year by the Ballymacarrett District LOL," the East Belfast MP said.

"For the families and those who knew them the pain is still raw, but to have such a parade passing the spot where they were murdered exacerbates this greatly."

He accused participants in previous anti-internment parades of breaching restrictions by chanting IRA slogans - actions which he claimed had not resulted in any adverse consequences for organisers.

"Once again, we see the Parades Commission rewarding those who have breached previous determinations, yet the organisers of peaceful parades which have always sought to abide by restrictions continue to be punished by this quango," added Mr Robinson.

"The Commission's actions are bitterly disappointing, but unfortunately, they are not surprising."

Belfast Telegraph

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