Low turnout for parade to honour UDA killers
LOYALISTS have staged a march through south Belfast in honour of notorious UDA members linked to scores of sectarian murders during the Troubles.
Crowds took part in the parade amid the rain through the mixed Ormeau Road area, 21 years since the deaths of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.
The UDA men were linked to scores of Troubles killings including a 1992 gun attack on a Belfast bookmakers in which five Catholics were killed.
Turnout at the march was considerably lower than the expectations of organisers.
Around 10 bands were seen marching along the Ormeau Road before parading through quiet residential side streets.
Clusters of supporters sheltered from the rain beneath Union flag umbrellas as they lined the Ormeau Road to watch the parade.
Organisers had expected up to 1,600 people and 35 bands to take part in the event.
The Parades Commission had warned against paramilitary regalia in the event, which began at about 7.30pm.
However, at least one band displayed a floral tribute to the UDA during the march.
Other participants held aloft wreaths made of poppies.
Bands and supporters gathered at a memorial adorned in paramilitary flags on Candahar Street during the procession.
Flags were also erected on lamp posts along the parade route.
The Parades Commission gave the go-ahead to the march without significant restrictions despite the paramilitary commemoration causing outrage when it was first held last year.
It sparked controversy after the £11,000 memorial funded by the Housing Executive was used to honour UDA men including Bratty and Elder.
A temporary plaque with their names was fixed to the monument near Annadale Flats while UDA and UFF flags were flown from lamp posts.
Assembly members in recent days have condemned the parade and questioned the parades body's ruling.
The march was organised by the Annadale Heritage and Cultural Society.
In its ruling ahead of the march, the Parades Commission said it received a "significant number of complaints" from residents last year.
The use of paramilitary trappings and participants acting in an intimidatory manner towards residents were among the issues raised.
"The commission has cause to believe that should the parade process without conditions, there will be an adverse effect on community relations," the parades body said.
However, the Parades Commission did not restrict the route or bands taking part, instead reiterating general requirements for participants on issues such as behaviour and attire.
The controversial parade comes just weeks after the PSNI was accused of a U-turn on its flags policy in the Ormeau Road area.
Police last summer said in future the flying of loyalist flags in the mixed community would be treated as a "breach of the peace".
But this year after flags were erected the PSNI said it was an issue for the local community to resolve.
Bratty and Elder were shot dead by the Provisional IRA on the Ormeau Road on July 31 1994.
The notorious loyalist paramilitaries were widely believed to have been involved in the brutal murder of five Catholics at Sean Graham bookmakers on Ormeau Road in 1992.
Just weeks ago a senior UDA member said to have been involved in organising the 1992 gun attack was killed.
Colin 'Bap' Lindsay (47) was one of two men who died after a sword attack at Kirkistown Walk in the Belvoir estate on July 8