Controversial republican parade opposed by hundreds of protesters
Atmosphere tense during march and unveiling of memorial to dead IRA members
Hundreds of people protested at a controversial republican parade taking place in Castlederg, Co Tyrone. The Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade commemorates republicans who died during the Troubles, including two IRA men killed by their own bomb. Photograph: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
A memorial to Tyrone IRA members, including two who died when they were killed by their own bomb, has been unveiled in Castlederg during a contentious republican parade.
The parade was opposed by hundreds of protesters, many of whom stood at a police barrier holding photographs of relatives who died at the hands of the IRA.
Others sang hymns at the nearby village cenotaph as republican bands playing Only Our Rivers Run Free paraded past Ferguson Crescent, a short distance away.
The atmosphere was tense as police in body armour, but not full riot gear, contained the protesters – many of whom shouted angrily at republicans carrying the Tricolour, flags of the four provinces, the starry plough and other emblems.
Re-routing of parade
The protesters were supported by some senior DUP members, including Minister for Enterprise Arlene Foster and by Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister.
Also in attendance were senior figures from the Parades Commission which rules on contentious marches and had ordered the re-routing of the parade away from the village centre where the war memorial stands. Several hundred police blocked the 100m gap between the parade route and the many protesters marshalled by members of the loyal orders.
A police helicopter monitored proceedings. Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers had called for the march to be called off given what she called “the deep pain this parade will cause the families of victims in West Tyrone area and the rest of Northern Ireland”.
One loyalist victims’ campaigner, David Kerrigan, said: “There is no use talking to them, they have set relations back in this town 20 years.”
The parade made its way to a housing estate in the village where a new memorial had been erected to IRA members from the county who had died during the Troubles. The unveiling ceremony was attended by senior Sinn Féin members including Gerry Kelly.
Relatives of the dead IRA men – including Séamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn, killed by their bomb – read tributes to their loved ones. The main address was given by Mr Kelly.
Meanwhile, In Belfast Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams addressed a rally in west Belfast supporting the families of 11 people killed by the British army in 1971 and renewed his call for an independent truth and reconciliation commission.