Irish Republican News · August 9, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: British Direct Ruler condemns Tyrone commemoration
British Direct Ruler condemns Tyrone commemoration

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Controversy over a republican commemoration in County Tyrone this Sunday has continued after the British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers, in an usually partisan intervention, demanded the parade be called off.

Ms Villiers said she did not have the legal power to ban the “insensitive” parade, but called on organisers to stop it.

The commemoration, which is supported by Sinn Fein, will mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths of IRA Volunteers Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn.

A unionist lobby group met the British Direct Ruler this week and urged her to ban the march, already rerouted away from the town centre. The Derg Valley Victims Voice also plans to stage a protest during the event.

Although she said she did not have the power to ban the march, following the meeting she asked the parade’s organisers not to hold it. She said the march was an attempt by Sinn Fein to “legitimise terrorism”

“There is no doubt that this deeply insensitive parade is causing great hurt and distress to many victims of terrorism in the west Tyrone area and the rest of Northern Ireland,” she said.

Loyalists routinely commemorate their deceased paramilitaries in band parades and as part of larger parades held by the main Protestant marching orders. Banners commemorating UVF members were carried during July Twelfth parades across the North last month, with little comment or incident.

By contrast, nationalist commemorations are routinely denounced as inflammatory.

In County Tyrone, republicans hold an annual ‘Volunteers Day’ to commemorate those who died in the conflict, usually in a more remote area. Sinn Fein said Castlederg was chosen this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths of the two local IRA men.

But tensions were sharply heightened last week when a DUP Councillor and former Deputy Mayor of Belfast, Ruth Patterson, expressed support for the idea of a large-scale gun-and-bomb attack on the Castlederg event.

Sinn Fein assembly member Barry McElduff said Ms Villiers should “stay out of parading issues”.

He said that her comments had “outlined her partisan objections and further endorsed the view that there are a hierarchy of victims when it comes to the conflict in Ireland”.

On Saturday, an Apprentice Boys feeder parade is due to take place through the town, one of 17 such parades every year. A planned protest by a Sinn Fein-backed residents group against that parade was cancelled today.

“This is a genuine attempt to de-escalate tensions in the town and it would be my hope that it contributes to a peaceful weekend in Castlederg,” the Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone, Pat Doherty, said.

Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Sunday’s republican commemoration will be “dignified and lawful” and that people should respect the right of republicans in Tyrone to remember their dead.

“I have tremendous sympathy for all victims of the conflict and there have been victims on all sides,” he said.

“There has been political manipulation. I don’t have any other reason to believe that Sunday will not be peaceful, it’s not a celebration, it’s an act of remembrance.”

© 2013 Irish Republican News