Belfast Telegraph

Victims speak out after Saoradh hunger strike parade gets green light

Angry: Colin Worton
Angry: Colin Worton
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A controversial dissident republican hunger strike march in Newry, which finishes at Raymond McCreesh Park, has been given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission - but only under strict conditions.

Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, is holding its first hunger strike commemoration tomorrow.

Those participating in the parade must not wear any clothing or display any symbols relating to a proscribed organisation, the commission determined.

However, the organisers would neither confirm nor deny if they would abide by the conditions.

The parade will finish at Raymond McCreesh Park where a rally will be held to commemorate the 10 IRA and INLA members who died during the fast.

It is expected that 700 will take part in the parade with another 300 spectators.

IRA victims' families expressed their disappointment at the ruling to allow the parade to go ahead, despite previously calling on the commission to reject the application.

Colin Worton's brother Kenneth was just 24 years old when he was shot dead alongside nine other Protestant workmen in Co Armagh in January 1976 during the Kingsmill massacre.

Raymond McCreesh was sentenced to 14 years in prison five months later after he was found to have been carrying a weapon used in the killings.

Mr Worton said he hopes the PSNI will be monitoring the march as he does not expect the participants to obey the Parades Commission's conditions.

"As far as I can tell they give the two fingers to anybody who tells them what to do and they say: 'We're going to do it anyway no matter what,'" he continued.

"We're highly stressed that they were even allowed to have this parade.

"Why do they not take it anywhere else? Why does it always have to be Raymond McCreesh Park?

"Why don't they rent some place and do whatever they have to do behind closed doors where my family will not be annoyed?"

Sammy Heenan from Rathfriland, Co Down, was orphaned when he was just 12 after his father was shot by an IRA gunman outside his Legananny home in 1985.

He hopes that anyone who decides to flout the regulations will feel the full rigour of the law.

"I'm extremely disappointed by the Parades Commission's decision considering what this parade represents," he added.

"Once again, as far as I'm concerned, it's all part of the revisionist agenda.

"They're eulogising and glorifying terror of the past that brought misery and destruction to many homes throughout Northern Ireland in both Protestant and Roman Catholic communities."

The organisers of the parade - Newry Republican Commemoration Committee (NRCC) - were asked if they would stick to the Parades Commission's conditions but would not outline their plans.

A spokesperson for the NRCC said: "The NRCC will remember Ireland's patriot dead in a fitting and dignified fashion in line with the traditional format of Irish republican commemorations.

"We will assemble at 2pm at Kilmorey Street and then march to Raymond McCreesh Park where we will pay tribute to the IRA and INLA heroes who gave their lives on hunger strike for political status and a 32-county Irish socialist republic."

A statement from the Parades Commission said it had considered the genuine concerns of families and victims that a new parade by Newry Republican Commemoration Committee will cause hurt and distress. " The Commission’s view is that the parade has the potential to impact adversely upon community relations," it said.

"The parade must comply strictly with the Commission’s statutory Code of Conduct, which prohibits the display of all references, insignia, flags or emblems relating to any proscribed organisation.  Participants must act with due regard for the rights, traditions and feelings of others, and must refrain from using words, or behaviour, which could reasonably be perceived as being sectarian, provocative or threatening.  The wearing of paramilitary-style clothing is prohibited.

"The Commission is mindful that this is the first time that this parade will take place in Newry, and that the parade’s conduct this year will necessarily influence the Commission’s decision about any future event.  

"This additional new parade in Newry, where there are about 22 loyalist/unionist and 2 nationalist/republican parades each year, may attract limited support."

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