Belfast Telegraph

PSNI probe south Belfast loyalist parade after 'paramilitary display' claims

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna claims Parades Commission determination was breached

Police are investigating whether a loyalist parade in south Belfast breached a Parades Commission determinations amid claims there was paramilitary regalia on display.

The parade took place on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on Friday night.

The PSNI said there was an "evidence gathering operation" in place.

Superintendent Robert Singleton said: "Officers will review footage and any potential breaches of the Parades Commission determination or other offences will be investigated.”

The parade sparked controversy last year when an £11,000 memorial funded by the Housing Executive was used to honour UDA members.

Speaking to the Stephen Nolan Show ahead of the parade the spokesman for the South Belfast UPRG gave assurances that there would be no paramilitary displays.

He said: "What I'm told is it's a cultural and heritage society parade in memory of everybody who died in the two conflicts and all conflicts since that."

However on Monday SDLP MLA for south Belfast Claire Hanna claimed that there were several paramilitary displays at the parade.

She told the Nolan Show: "The Parades Commission made their determination, which I didn't think was the correct one, but it did have conditions that are applied to all parades that there is to be no paramilitary trappings and there were paramilitary trappings.

"There were UDA flags with an image of UDA men beside a car in masks lining the route, UFF flags, there was a UDA flag with the crest erected on this memorial at Annadale there was a plague specifically referencing Bratty and Elder.

"It wasn't a UDA commemoration, there were UDA flags, a UDA plaque on the shrines, UDA wreaths laid at that same shrine, these are clearly trappings of a paramilitary organisation.

"So the ruling has been breached, the law has been breached and there needs to be follow up on that."

In response south Belfast UPRG spokesman Colin Halliday said he had received no complaints from the PSNI and that he was "not aware" of the paramilitary trappings.

He said: "My belief is we have had no complaints from the PSNI, the organisers of the band parade spent the whole evening from 7.30-10.30 in the presence of the PSNI.

He continued: "Claire is talking about paramilitary displays I'm not aware of those.

"I wasn't at the parade so I have been in touch both Saturday and yesterday and yesterday evening with the organisers.

"If bands come along and carry UDA flags we have no control over that.

He added: "The UDA played no part in that parade on Friday evening.

"It was not a UDA memorial parade to the two gentlemen. It was a marching band parade, I'm led to believe it's going to be an annual event."

Mr Halliday said to wait for the Parades Commission and PSNI's report.

He said: "I am saying here that the UDA was not involved in organising or participating in that parade."

When asked if he condemned those carrying UDA flags, Mr Halliday said he didn't.

He said: "I see it week in week out at other parades where bands carry colours and flags which I or the UPRG have no control over."

However Ms Hanna said it was not a question about remembering the dead and branded it a "political event".

She said: "This is a political event. When you take it to the street and you have roads closed off.

"It is not about people not having the right to remember their dead.

"I don't think what we see can be tolerated and supported anymore, if it's a memorial to these two men, most of the young men marching will never have met those guys."

"All it is is retrospectively justifying what that group did."

The SDLP MLA was then challenged over SDLP colleague Colum Eastwood who was at the centre of controversy when he attended the paramilitary-style funeral of a friend in 2012.

He carried the coffin of ex-paramilitary Seamus Coyle. A colour party fired shots over the coffin however at the time Mr Eastwood stressed he was not there at the time.

Ms Hanna responded: "This is a classic dose of what is called whataboutery.

"Carrying a coffin isn't a crime putting up a flag of a prescribed organisation is a crime.

She added: "As I understand he carried the coffin of a schoolfriend."

Ms Hanna said: "If you told me Colum Eastwood or any of my colleagues had stood in a mask and fired a volley of shots or saluted or dressed up in the wee black suits and ties, I would say that's outrageous. But carrying the coffin of someone you attended school with is not the same thing.

She added: "I'm quite clear that all of these glorification acts have no place."

A Parades Commission spokeswoman said: "The Commission received one verbal complaint prior to making its determination. 

"The Commission has not, to date, received any complaints regarding the 2015 parade.  Any breach of a determination is a matter for the police to investigate. 

"The Commission will however take into account the extent to which parade participants complied with imposed conditions and its Code of Conduct when making decisions about future parades."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph