Belfast Telegraph

Veteran wants no Soldier F emblems at Operation Banner event

Commemoration: Ian Simpson
Commemoration: Ian Simpson
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Soldier F supporters have been asked not to hold a protest or bring banners supporting the former paratrooper to today's parade marking the 50th anniversary of Operation Banner.

More than 5,000 people are expected to take part in the Lisburn event, with another 10,000 spectators.

The commemoration will mark the beginning of the Army's campaign in Northern Ireland during the Troubles - codenamed Operation Banner - which ran from 1969 to 2007.

Following the fallout from the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry last weekend, where members of Larne's Clyde Valley Flute Band wore a Parachute Regiment insignia with the letter F, the organisers of today's event have asked those taking part not to wear or bring anything relating to Soldier F.

Explaining the reasoning behind the decision, Ian Simpson from the Northern Ireland Veterans Association said the attendance of veterans at today's parade will "be enough" to support Soldier F.

"All veterans on the day will be thinking of Solider F, other soldiers who are in his position and police officers," he said.

"However, we have asked that no one brings banners or stages a protest in relation to Solider F.

"Their attendance in the parade will be enough in support of Soldier F.

"Today is not about a protest for Solider F, we have had protests for Solider F and they will continue, but today is to commemorate and remember the beginning of Operation Banner and what happened since it began."

The commemoration will begin at 11am with a Drumhead Service at Wallace Park, conducted by the Rev Edwin Fraser and Rev Andrew Thompson.

Following the service, Troubles veterans will then parade at 12pm from Wallace Park through Lisburn, laying wreaths at three memorials - the Lisburn Half Marathon Bomb Memorial, the UDR Memorial in Market Square and the War Memorial in Castle Gardens.

The parade will return to Wallace Park where the Wellington Silver Band will conclude the ceremony.

"There will be a lot of reminiscing, I'm sure, and good comradeship," added Mr Simpson.

Representatives of the UDR, RUC, PSNI and An Garda Siochana, among others, will be in attendance along with relatives of members of security forces who lost their lives during the Troubles.

VIP guest Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that today's event is about honouring the service provided by the men and women who lost their lives during the Troubles.

"As president of the Regimental Association of the Ulster Defence Regiment, I am very much looking forward to taking part in the events in Lisburn to mark the 50th anniversary of Operation Banner," added the DUP MP.

"I expect that there will be a large turnout of veterans, not only from Northern Ireland, but also from Great Britain as well.

"I believe that this is an appropriate way to mark this very significant anniversary.

"The main purpose of the event this weekend is to commemorate those who tragically lost their lives during Operation Banner, whether they were soldiers, police officers or indeed civilians in support of the armed forces in Northern Ireland."

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