DUP silent on councillor Ruth Patterson attending UDA parade
THE DUP has refused to comment on one of its councillors attending a loyalist parade honouring notorious UDA members linked to numerous sectarian murders during the Troubles.
South Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson attended the controversial march on Friday evening through the mixed Ormeau Road area.
Loyalist paramilitary regalia was displayed during the parade which was held exactly 21 years since the deaths of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.
The UDA men were linked to the brutal murder of five Catholics at Sean Graham bookmakers on Ormeau Road in 1992.
A plaque with the names of UDA members including Bratty and Elder was temporarily fixed to a memorial covered in paramilitary flags.
Ms Patterson's attendance came just days after DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt condemned the parade, saying: "There is no place in our society for the commemoration of those who took innocent life."
Defending her attendance, the DUP councillor told The Irish News: "It is an area that I represent and I was there to support the bandsmen.
"I wasn't round at the memorial, but there are people out there who will condemn anything that is loyalist and Protestant."
She said she attended to remember those who died in the First and Second World War and "all proceeding conflicts".
Last year Lisburn DUP councillor Luke Poots faced criticism for attending the same parade.
He said at the time that he strayed into the commemoration after happening upon it while returning from a church service.
The DUP last night did not respond to requests for a comment.
The Parades Commission had warned participants against using paramilitary regalia in the commemoration, which caused outrage when it was first held last year.
But UFF flags and flags showing pictures of the UDA were erected on lamp posts along the parade route.
At least one band, Bangor's North Down Defenders, displayed a floral tribute to the UDA during the contentious march.
Bandsmen and supporters also gathered during the procession to place floral tributes beside a memorial on Candahar Street.
The £11,000 memorial, funded by the Housing Executive, caused controversy during the parade last year after it was used to honour UDA men including Bratty and Elder.
A temporary plaque with their names, used last year, was again attached to the monument before later being removed.
The Parades Commission gave the go-ahead to the march without restricting the route despite uproar from residents over last year's commemoration.
SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna called for the parades body to prevent the march from passing the memorial if the event is held again.
"For two years running the limited determinations made have been breached, and there need to be consequences for that," she said.
"The route should be restricted, excluding them from passing this memorial and stopping them from exploiting it and making it a paramilitary shrine."
A Parades Commission spokeswoman said: "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."
The PSNI has said it is reviewing footage and any potential breaches of Parades Commission rulings.
The Housing Executive yesterday refused to say if it will cooperate with any police probe into the parade's use of the memorial.
A spokeswoman would only say: "Staff have confirmed that there is no paramilitary plaque in the memorial garden."