Son of murdered jail warder wants Belfast city centre ban on dissident procession
The son of a murdered prison officer has backed calls for the Parades Commission to stop a dissident republican march in Belfast city centre after it emerged that a man cleared over the killing is to lead it.
Organisers have invited convicted terrorist Damien McLaughlin to play a leading role in the anti-internment parade on Saturday.
He had been accused of providing the car that was used in the murder of David Black, who was gunned down on his way to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012.
But McLaughlin, who has a previous conviction for possessing firearms, walked free in June when the case against him collapsed.
McLaughlin was recently presented with a trophy by fellow dissidents in celebration of his acquittal.
Mr Black's son called the Anti-Internment League parade an "insult to victims of terrorist violence".
And Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he was "sickened and disgusted" by news of McLaughlin's involvement.
"I was horrified the Parades Commission gave this march the go-ahead," he said.
"Whenever I read who was going to lead it, I thought it was being done deliberately to annoy the Black family and his former colleagues in the Prison Service.
"I would urge the Parades Commission to have another look at this."
He continued: "I'm sickened and disgusted. These terrorist organisations will do anything to make sure there's no peace and reconciliation.
"I would also hope that eventually the killers of that decent man, who was shot down on his way to work, will be arrested and properly punished.
"This individual (Damien McLaughlin) walked free and I think his involvement in the parade is a real slap in the face to the family."
Last night Kyle Black, the son of the murdered prison officer, welcomed the former Lord Mayor's call for a review of the upcoming march.
"Personally, I'm glad that people in political life are taking a moral stance on this issue," he said.
"While McLaughlin was cleared in connection with my father's murder, he still has terrorist convictions, and for him to have such a prominent place in this proposed parade I feel is immoral.
"It raises serious questions about why the organisers chose him.
"Why would they want to have such an individual to take such a place in the parade?
"Our family has been through the mill in recent months, and this use of McLaughlin is just rubbing more salt into our wounds."
Next Saturday's march will be the first time the Parades Commission has allowed the event to proceed into the city centre, scene of many lethal terrorist attacks during the Troubles.
DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst also called for a rethink on the granting of permission for the parade to access the city centre.
He commented: "It beggars belief that the Parades Commission has allowed this parade to go ahead. This parade is grossly insensitive, and I think a review would be a sensible way for the Parades Commission to proceed.
"The organisers glorify IRA terrorism, but the fact that they have placed Damien McLaughlin at the forefront of the parade is highly provocative.
"They have no care for the victims of republican terrorism. This parade will pass the spot where two UDR men were murdered in 1988, and there have been many other terrorist incidents in the city centre where people have been killed or injured.
"Those victims feel let down by the Parades Commission."
Prominent dissident republican Dee Fennell has organised the march and says 1,000 will attend, although the Parades Commission has noted fewer than half this amount attended last year.
Damien 'DD' McLaughlin from Dungannon was accused of involvement in the murder of Mr Black in 2012, but his trial collapsed in June and he was cleared of aiding and abetting the killing.
He had previously served a two-and-a-half year sentence for possessing dissident republican firearms.
Saturday's planned anti-internment march follows increased tensions in Maghaberry Prison after five republican inmates were placed in solitary confinement after clashing with staff.
Mr Fennell said the Anti-Internment League (AIL) wanted to highlight "cases of internment" including those incarcerated via revocation of licence by remand, via miscarriage of justice and through 'Garda belief evidence'".
However, Department of Justice figures show that just 14 dissidents are currently incarcerated at Maghaberry, with three being held on remand. Two of the 14, Tony Taylor and Niall Lehd, were returned to Maghaberry after having their licences suspended. Another 25 suspected dissidents are currently facing terrorism charges, such as Colin Duffy and Alex McCrory. Both are on bail but must wear electronic tags and observe a curfew.