Irish Republican News · August 11, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Marchers call for release of republican

A number of Catholic homes were attacked by unionist paramilitaries in Ballymena following a republican march in the town.

The trouble erupted after more than 500 loyalists, ome carrying UDA flags and beating Lambeg drums, attempted to prevent the march, the first ever in the predominately unionist town.

Police in riot gear clashed with a mob of 500 loyalists, some carrying UDA flags and beating Lambeg drums, during the anti-internment commemoration parade.

A Parades Commission determination last week meant the republican march had been restricted to the nationalist Fisherwick estate.

However, hundreds of loyalists were controversially permitted to cross a bridge from the neighbouring Ballykeel estate shortly before the first of two republican bands began to march.

The loyalists were then allowed to attack nationalist vehicles, some of which belonged to republican band members and supporters.

Sinn Féin councillor Monica Digney said that the loyalist protest had had the potential to have spark serious violence.

“I think a potentially volatile situation has been diffused,” she said.

She said nationalists had shown restraint but criticised the police for allowing loyalists to cross the bridge.

Event organiser Paddy Murray defended the decision by the Friends of William Orr to go ahead with the march, which had been opposed by Sinn Féin.

He said that the parade highlighted the continued detention without charge of republican John Brady from Strabane in County Tyrone.

Released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Mr Brady was charged with weapons offences in 2003.

In June 2004, these charges were dropped but the Strabane man was told that his early-release licence had been revoked by then secretary of state Paul Murphy.

Mr Brady has been held without charge for more than 12 months.

Mr Murray said: “This was as relevant as any anti-internment parade held in the 1970s. It highlights the plight of people like John Brady, who is in a similar position as Sean Kelly.”

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that Ian Paisley’s DUP has “serious questions to answer” about the recent aggression by loyalist paramilitaries.

“Last night after loyalists marched over the Ballymena footbridge from Ballykeel toward Fisherwick with UDA flags, lambeg drums and tricolours to burn in front of the PSNI, DUP MLA Mervyn Storey addressed the crowd,” said Mr McGuigan. “I was not surprised when I saw coverage of him on BBC this morning thanking the loyalist crowd for coming to the bottom of Fisherwick.

“This approach is totally reflective of the DUP’s attitude toward attacks on Catholics in the North Antrim area in recent weeks. They are quite willing to stand back and let loyalist paramilitaries do whatever they want, and then provide a minimal token condemnation of their activities before justifying it by saying that it’s in reaction to something that nationalists have done.

“It stinks to the high heavens and shows that the DUP are flirting and working with the loyalist paramilitaries now more than ever.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News