Northern Ireland

Castlederg republican parade gets restricted go ahead

Street in Castlederg, County Tyrone
Image caption The parade is planned for 11 August in Castlederg

The Parades Commission has placed restrictions on a republican parade in Castlederg, County Tyrone.

The parade is to commemorate Tyrone's republican dead, including two IRA members killed by their own bomb in 1973, and is backed by Sinn Féin.

The commission's determination reroutes the parade to avoid a war memorial in the Diamond.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has urged the Secretary of State to ban the parade completely.

In a statement, the Parades Commission said it had considered a wide range of representations from parade organisers, political parties, victims and residents over the past few days.

'Damaging effect'

It said it had received around 500 emails and letters, many calling for the parade to be banned, a power which it said was not available to the commission under existing legislation.

The commission said if the march went along its intended route, there would be an adverse effect on community relations and the potential for public disorder.

"Although the original route was revised, on the basis of the representations received the commission has concluded that if the parade were to proceed as notified it would have a damaging effect on community relations in the town," the statement said.

Image caption A new IRA memorial is being built in Castlederg and will be ready in time for the 11 August event

"Consequently, the commission has issued a determination to restrict the parade's route away from the Diamond area, including the Cenotaph, in Castlederg."

Sinn Féin councillor for Castlederg, Ruairí McHugh, said the determination had the potential to "seriously undermine attempts by local republicans towards addressing contention in Castlederg".

'Shared space'

"The commission has made a decision to restrict this parade ignoring the initiative by Sinn Féin to voluntarily reroute the commemoration away from the Methodist Church and the War Memorial by passing down John Street," he said.

"This determination makes a mockery of the concept of shared space within Castlederg centre and the fact that locally there has been dialogue for over five years surrounding parades in the town."

Mr McHugh said the organisers of the 11 August parade would be seeking a review of the determination.

"So far this year there have been 17 loyalist parades in the town," he said.

"The day before the commemoration the Apprentice Boys have applied to have full access to the town centre and march around the Diamond.

"None of these marches were contested in what is a majority nationalist town despite the impact they have on residents."

Ban request

A victims' group plan to hold a protest against the parade, involving between 500 and 1,000 people.

Following the Parades Commission's determination, the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has written to the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, asking her to ban the Castlederg march.

He said there can be "no equivalence between those who put themselves in harm's way to protect their families, community and country by serving in the lawfully constituted police and security services and those who chose to be law-breakers by undertaking terrorist activity".

In his letter, Mr Nesbitt wrote: "The Ulster Unionist Party urges you to act now and ban this parade and commit to banning all future parades that would have the clear intent of celebrating or glorifying those who engaged in acts of terrorism."

Mr Nesbitt said it was not a sectarian issue.

"For me terrorism is an absolute, it's absolutely wrong. We need to ban all parades that are perceived to glorify terrorism."

'Warped thinking'

DUP West Tyrone MLA Thomas Buchanan has called for the parade to be cancelled.

"The fact that Sinn Fein chooses to celebrate these so-called Provisional IRA (PIRA) volunteers, killed whilst transporting a bomb to Castlederg, speaks volumes about their view of reconciliation. It also shows their utter insensitivity to the victims of PIRA terrorism," he said.

"This parade is not a debate about cultural expression. It's about glorifying terrorism. There is no comparison between the innocent victims of PIRA terrorism and the death of those men who were planning to plant a bomb in the heart of Castlederg. To make a comparison is warped thinking," the DUP MLA added.

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