Northern Ireland news

Loyalist paramilitary flags placed on south Belfast memorial

Paramilitary flags on the memorial on Candahar Street in south Belfast on Tuesday. Picture by Matt Bohill
Brendan Hughes

LOYALIST paramilitary flags have been placed on a south Belfast memorial at the centre of a scrapped parade honouring two notorious UDA members.

It comes despite a new flags protocol being agreed just months ago aimed at preventing the flying of paramilitary flags in the mixed area.

The DUP – whose MLA Christopher Stalford announced the protocol – did not respond yesterday when asked whether the flags amounted to a breach of the arrangement.

For the past four years, a march has been held in the Ormeau Road area honouring two UDA men linked to numerous Troubles murders.

The Irish News yesterday revealed that loyalists have this year ditched the contentious parade commemorating Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.

The loyalist march honouring UDA men Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder in 2014

However, it has emerged that paramilitary flags were flown from a publicly-funded memorial which acted as a centrepiece to the annual march.

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

They were linked to a gun attack on Sean Graham bookmakers along the same street in 1992 in which five Catholics were killed.

The parade was usually held on the Friday closest to the anniversary of their deaths, but no march has emerged this year.

Scenes from the contentious parade in the Ormeau Road area of south Belfast in 2014

The Parades Commission said it has not been notified of any similar parade.

The march was first held in 2014 following the construction of a controversial £11,000 memorial garden at Annadale Flats funded by the Housing Executive (NIHE).

A temporary plaque bearing Bratty and Elder's names was affixed to the memorial each year as part of the event, and paramilitary flags were flown from lampposts.

NIHE said the structure on Candahar Street was intended as a First World War monument.

On Tuesday, on the anniversary of Bratty and Elder's deaths, paramilitary flags were again spotted on the memorial.

The DUP's Christopher Stalford

In May this year, DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford announced a new flags protocol had been agreed for the Ballynafeigh area including Ormeau Road.

No paramilitary-linked flags are to be flown and only the Union flag and Ulster banner are displayed under the arrangement.

It also seeks to restrict the flying of flags to the period from mid-June to early September, and only one per lamppost.

At the time Mr Stalford said those behind the arrangement were "trying to improve community relations".

Asked whether the paramilitary flags on the memorial are a breach of the protocol, the DUP yesterday did not respond.

NIHE was asked if it would be removing the flags or the memorial itself. A spokesman said: "We will not be intervening at this stage."

The Parades Commission last year banned the march from some streets including Ormeau Road after receiving "strong representation opposed to the parade's purpose and associations with the UDA".

Organisers had said 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.

The march not being organised this year was welcomed by SDLP MLA Claire Hanna and Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, who said it had been "needlessly divisive and provocative".

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