Loyalists plan march in Belfast to glorify UDA killers
CONCERNS have been raised about a plan by loyalists to march through a mixed community to glorify UDA members linked to scores of sectarian murders.
For the third year a parade is being held in south Belfast's Ormeau Road area to coincide with the anniversary of the killing of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.
The pair have been linked to the 1992 gun attack on Sean Graham bookmakers in which five Catholics were killed.
The commemoration has caused outrage for using an £11,000 memorial funded by the Housing Executive to honour UDA members including Bratty and Elder.
In both previous years a temporary plaque bearing their names was fixed to the monument near Annadale flats and UDA flags were flown from lampposts.
The Housing Executive has said it is "extremely disappointed" that the monument, which was intended as a First World War memorial, has become associated with loyalist paramilitaries.
But it has rejected calls to remove the controversial memorial despite fears that it is becoming the centrepiece of an annual UDA commemoration.
The planned march has been described to the Parades Commission as a 'remembrance parade'.
It will take place from 7pm to 10pm on July 29, two days before the 22nd anniversary of Bratty and Elder's deaths.
The pair were shot dead by the Provisional IRA on the Ormeau Road on July 31 1994.
The event is being organised again by the 'Ballynafeigh and Annadale Cultural and Heritage Society', who expect to attract 500 participants, 300 supporters and 22 bands.
They plan to march on Ormeau Road before travelling along Ava Avenue, Derlett Street, Blackwood Street, Kimberly Street, Sunnyside Street, Annadale flats, Haywood Avenue and Haywood Drive – where the taxpayer-funded memorial is located.
The Parades Commission has marked the event as 'sensitive' and is expected to issue a ruling in the coming days.
Last year the Parades Commission said it received a "significant number of complaints" from residents following the first march in 2014.
The use of paramilitary trappings and participants acting in an intimidatory manner towards residents were among issues raised.
But the Parades Commission did not restrict the route or bands taking part last year, instead reiterating general requirements for participants on issues such as behaviour and attire.
SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna said she has written to Parades Commission to raise concerns about the event's "overt paramilitary nature" and disruption to residents.
"At this event in 2014 there was alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and last year there were numerous UDA flags erected and further UDA paraphernalia displayed at a memorial garden. This is unacceptable anywhere but least of all in probably the most diverse and well integrated area in Northern Ireland," she said.
"Ballynafeigh is a neighbourhood where people live and let live, and which accommodates many Orange and band parades, but overt glorification of a sectarian murder gang, along with 'blood and thunder' music until 10pm, is just not on.
"I met the Parades Commission last summer and presented evidence of numerous determination breaches at the last event, and trust they will reflect this in their determination this year."
Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said: "Parading is not an unmitigated right. I would ask the Parades Commission to look at the route of this parade, particularly going past an unofficial tribute to paramilitaries, and think seriously about what decision it reaches.
"In previous years the parade has brought tensions to Ballynafeigh, which is both mixed and peaceful, by commemorating UDA members implicated in the Ormeau bookmakers massacre. This parade is both divisive and offensive and contributes nothing to reconciliation."