Editorial: Orange Order should rethink parade plan

Marian Walsh
Marian Walsh

ONE can only feel sympathy for Marian Walsh, whose teenage son was shot dead by the UDA in west Belfast almost 30 years ago.

For the relatives of anyone who dies unexpectedly, the pain of loss is always present. And for the family of someone killed violently during the Troubles, the reminders of conflict are sadly all too familiar.

It must therefore be hugely difficult for Ms Walsh to face the prospect of a parade to 'honour' a UDA member passing near where her son was murdered.

Damien Walsh (17) was working at the Dairy Farm shopping centre near Twinbrook when he was targeted by the loyalist group in March 1993.

No-one has ever been charged in relation to his murder and a Police Ombudsman report in 2021 identified significant investigative failures by the RUC as well as evidence of 'collusive behaviours'.

The teenager was killed not far from where the Orange Order intends to hold a memorial parade in Derriaghy for Jim Guiney, an Orangeman and UDA member who was shot dead by the INLA in 1998.

At his funeral 16 men, some wearing Orange sashes, flanked his coffin, which was draped in a UDA flag and Glasgow Rangers jersey.

Ms Walsh has urged organisers to reconsider, saying that regardless of Mr Guiney's association with the Orange Order, the march could also be perceived as approving his actions in the UDA.

Concern has also been expressed by nationalist politicians, with Sinn Féin saying it will create tension in the area.

Almost a quarter of a century after the Good Friday Agreement, addressing the legacy of our violent past remains one of the greatest challenges facing society.

On the same day that Damien Walsh was killed, four men were shot dead by the UDA/UFF as they arrived for work in Castlerock, Co Derry, while 12-year-old Tim Parry died from his injuries from an IRA bombing in Warrington in England five days earlier.

All those bereaved during the conflict are entitled to remember their dead but this should always be done with sensitivity to other victims.

It is obvious that a parade in honour of someone involved with the UDA which passes near the scene of a victim of the organisation is liable to cause hurt to relatives.

As we continue to seek a way forward together while carrying the wounds of the past, the Orange Order has an opportunity to show leadership by rethinking its plans.

UDA man Jim Guiney
UDA man Jim Guiney