Northern Ireland news

DUP says no place for paramilitary trappings during parade to glorify UDA men

The DUP did not respond when asked for a comment from its representatives Emma Little Pengelly or Christopher Stalford

THE DUP has broken its silence on loyalists' plans for a march through a mixed community to glorify UDA members linked to numerous Troubles murders.

The parade off south Belfast's Ormeau Road will take place on Friday, just days before the 23rd anniversary of the killing of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.

The party said today: "Paramilitaries should have disappeared from the scene long ago.

"The DUP condemns all those who cling to criminality and violence. Flags or any other emblems supporting paramilitaries have no place in our communities. We want to have them all removed."

Asked yesterday for a comment from DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly or MLA Christopher Stalford, the party did not respond.

Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder were linked to a gun attack on Sean Graham bookmakers along the same street in 1992 in which five Catholics were killed.

Loyalist paramilitary flags were yesterday seen flying from lampposts on Blackwood Street where Friday's parade – now in its fourth year – is due to begin.

The Parades Commission has banned the march from several streets including Ormeau Road.

In its ruling, the parades body said it had received "strong representation opposed to the parade's purpose and associations with the UDA".

It follows criticism of the elected representatives over their response in recent weeks to concerns about a loyalist bonfire that damaged an apartment block.

Ms Pengelly also faced a backlash last month after saying most people "didn't want a public fuss" about UVF flags erected in a cross-community housing development. She later said she opposes paramilitary flags.

SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna said "all parties, including the DUP" should oppose paramilitary displays.

"Opposition to this event is in no way 'anti-unionist' or 'anti-Protestant'. It is anti-paramilitary and all parties, including the DUP, need to address it," she said.

Bratty and Elder were shot dead by the Provisional IRA on Ormeau Road on July 31, 1994.

The parade was first held in 2014 after the Housing Executive spent £11,000 building a memorial beside its flats on Candahar Street.

In previous years a temporary plaque bearing Bratty and Elder's names has been fixed to the monument and UDA flags have been flown from lampposts.

The Housing Executive has said it was intended as a First World War memorial garden, but has rejected calls to remove the structure despite it becoming the centrepiece of an annual UDA commemoration.

The latest march is expected to involve about a dozen bands and will take place from 7.15pm to 8.30pm.

The organiser told the Parades Commission the march was to commemorate local people killed in both world wars and during the Troubles, and would involve a tribute to Bratty and Elder at the memorial garden.

Ms Hanna described the parade being allowed to proceed as "frustrating", but said she recognised the Parades Commission has a "difficult job to do".

"It's very frustrating that an event that has breached the 'no paramilitary trappings' ruling each year is allowed to proceed, and like many people I find it offensive that innocent Troubles victims and the dead of two world wars are being lumped in with the UDA for the purpose of this 'commemoration'," she said.

"Paramilitary flags are already flying in streets off the Ormeau ahead of this parade. Every time those logos appear on walls, lampposts and publicly-funded 'memorial gardens' it reduces confidence in law and order, and that the relevant authorities will or can address the ongoing criminal behaviour of those gangs."

 

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