Loyalists allowed to hold parade glorifying notorious UDA killers

The parade in south Belfast last year honouring notorious loyalist paramilitaries Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder who were killed by the IRA in 1994
The parade in south Belfast last year honouring notorious loyalist paramilitaries Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder who were killed by the IRA in 1994 The parade in south Belfast last year honouring notorious loyalist paramilitaries Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder who were killed by the IRA in 1994

THE PARADES Commission has allowed a loyalist parade through a mixed community to glorify notorious UDA members linked to scores of sectarian murders during the Troubles.

Organisers say up to 1,600 people and 35 bands are set to take part in the parade, which is due to begin at 7.30pm on Friday.

In its ruling the Parades Commission said it received a "significant number of complaints" from residents following the first march, 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 parade through south Belfast's Ormeau Road area is to mark 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.

It has been organised by the Annadale Heritage & Cultural Society and leaves from Ballynafeigh Orange Hall, travelling along the Ormeau Road, Ava Avenue, Burmah Street, Kimberley Street, Sunnyside Street, Annadale Flats, Haywood Avenue, Haywood Drive, Candahar Street, Delhi Parade, Ava Avenue, Ava Street and Blackwood Street.

Last year's parade caused controversy after an £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.

SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna last night criticised the parade and questioned the parades body's ruling.

"Whatever explanation given by the host organisation for this march it is evident that it aims to celebrate those responsible for sectarian murder, extortion and criminality," she said.

"It is hard to see how this is anything more than a coat-trailing exercise designed to ratchet up tensions in a peaceful and well integrated area."

It 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.

Among the bands is one that had some members accused of urinating in residents' gardens during last year's contentious parade.

The Irish News revealed in February that police had identified the band involved but failed to take any action.

South Belfast's Finaghy True Blues is also due to take part. During the Twelfth, the band was criticised for playing a hymn going past a Catholic church in Belfast despite the Parades Commission saying that only a single drumbeat should be played.

Ms Hanna said the involvement of Finaghy True Blues raises questions over whether the band's previous record has been taken into account.

"While I understand that the Parades Commission operates within the framework of the Public Processions Act they will have a difficult time explaining to the residents of the Ormeau how this determination reflects a 'balancing act' between the rights of local families and residents and the rights of the bands," she said.

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.

Friday's parade on is due to begin at Ballynafeigh Orange Hall on the Ormeau Road.

It is understood the Orange hall was opened last year on the advice of the PSNI to provide toilet facilities.

However, the hall appears to be used by organisers only as a landmark from where they will start their parade.

An Orange Order spokesman said: "Number 10 District Lodge is not involved in the organisation of this event."

Police last night said "appropriate and proportionate policing resources will be in place."

A Parades Commission spokesperson said anyone breaching the determination was a matter for the PSNI.

“The Commission received a significant number of complaints in relation to a similar parade by the Ballynafeigh and Annadale Cultural and Heritage Society Belfast on 31 July 2014.  The complaints, mainly from local residents, included complaints about conduct perceived as intimidatory and paramilitary trappings and insignia within the parade.  

"The Commission's determination in relation to the Annadale Cultural and Heritage Society on 31 July 2015 draws the organisers attention to the requirement for all participants to comply with the Commission’s Code of Conduct, in particular, that in no circumstances should such items relating to a proscribed organisation be displayed.

"If anyone taking part in a parade breaches the determination it is a matter for the police to investigate and those involved could be liable for prosecution.

"The Commission does not have the power to ban a parade.”