Northern Ireland news


Band linked to UDA commander Dee Stitt promotes unnotified loyalist protest parade

UDA commander Dee Stitt
Connla Young

A series of loyalist protest parades are being promoted by a band once described by UDA leader Dee Stitt as "our homeland security".

A message promoting several protest parades scheduled for Monday has been posted on a Facebook page linked to the North Down Defenders flute band.

The Parades Commission last night said that none of the planned parades had so far been notified to the oversight body.

In 2016 convicted armed robber Stitt described the band as "our homeland security".

The loyalist, who was recorded boasting about the "brilliant" work carried out by loyalist groups said: "It says it in its name, we are here to defend north Down

"From anybody," he added laughing.

The planned parades come as loyalist sources warn protests - including those involving bands - will resume after the funeral of Prince Philip today.

Loyalist and nationalist violence erupted across the north in the days leading up to the death of the senior royal last Friday.

The majority of protests since then have been called off as a mark of respect.

Last week the Loyalist Communities Council, which represents the Red Hand Commando, UVF and UDA, said none of its associated groups were involved in recent violence.

In a post on it's Facebook page North Down Defenders said "the band has been contacted and asked to post this updated statement released by our local collective. Please share folks".

A notice from the Ards and North Down Loyalist Collective claims the parades are "peaceful protests and designed to provide a legitimate means of registering the concerns of our community."

Those taking part in the parades will assemble at Bloomfield Estate, Bangor, Kilcooley Estate, Bangor, Whitehill Estate, Bangor and West Winds Estate, Newtownards.

Organisers say the protest parades are "against two tier policing and the attempts to impose an economic united Ireland via the NI (Northern Ireland) Protocol".

The notice said all "bandsmen will be welcome in their local community to participate" and urged the community to show its support.

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said all protests must be peaceful.

"Anyone encouraging people onto the streets bears a huge responsibility," he said.

"Any protests must be peaceful, legal and Covid compliant.

"Alliance continues to dismiss the false narratives behind the protests but is engaging on the genuine underlying issues."

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd last night said: “I would appeal to anyone who is considering organising a gathering to be mindful of the current health protection regulations and the risks of successfully managing large numbers of people in public spaces.

"I would also ask all of those with influence in communities to continue to engage and work with us to maintain calm and ensure safe spaces for all.”

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