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Loyalist parade is an exercise in heightening tension

Last year's parade in south Belfast to commemorate the deaths of notorious loyalist paramilitaries Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder who were killed by the IRA in 1994

A LOYALIST parade on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast commemorating UFF men linked to one of the most notorious mass murders of the Troubles caused widespread outrage at this time last year.

That march was organised to mark twenty years since the IRA murders of notorious loyalists Raymond Elder and Joe Bratty, who were suspected of involvement in the massacre of five Catholics at Sean Graham's bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in 1992 and other sectarian killings.

The fact that this parade through a mixed residential area was not treated as sensitive by the Parades Commission at the time caused considerable surprise.

However, the commission was subsequently left in no doubt about the feelings of local people and received a ``significant number of complaints'' from residents following the procession.

Among the issues raised was concern over the use of paramilitary trappings and the intimidatory behaviour of participants.

Despite deep disquiet about a march which was clearly paramilitary in nature and offensive to victims, a similar event planned for tomorrow night has been given the go ahead by the commission.

No restrictions have been applied to the route although the organisers - the Annadale Cultural and Heritage Society - have been told that items relating to proscribed organisations must not be displayed.

There can be no justification for what is a glorification of a murderous sectarian organisation and men responsible for heinous crimes.

This is not a traditional event and the presence of hundreds of marchers and dozens of bands, including, we are told, Finaghy True Blues who flouted the commission's ban on music outside St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street on July 13, will cause profound unease in a peaceful residential area.

The Parades Commission said it did not have the power to ban a parade.

However, it does have the power to impose restrictions which reflect wider concerns over an exercise in heightening tensions and creating fear.






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