Anti-collusion campaigner Raymond McCord surprised Sinn Féin organisers by addressing the party’s annual conference wearing his father’s Orange Order sash.
The north Belfast man put on the sash just before he started to speak about state collusion and the murder of his son in 1997 by “agents of the state in the UVF”.
An investigation into his son’s death by the Police Ombudsman’s office prompted a breakthrough report on decades of police collusion with the unionist paramilitary UVF.
“I pulled my orange sash out of my pocket before I started to show how proud I am of my Protestant culture and my unionist background. It was not stage managed. And I was not even asked for a copy of what I was planning to say before I spoke.
“When Alex Maskey introduced me at the conference he described me as an ‘unrepentant unionist who makes no bones about it’.
“There was no sarcasm in his remark but was just making the audience aware, for those who didn’t know me, of where my loyalties lie.
“The audience applauded when I put my father’s Orange sash on.
“To be honest the Sinn Féin organisers got one hell of a shock because they had no idea I was going to do that.”
Mr McCord said he did not put on the sash to “offend people”.
“I wanted to wear it because I am proud of it and because I wanted people to see that I was not being used by Sinn Féin.”
A spokesman for the Orange Order gave Mr McCord’s gesture a cool response. He said: “He is not the first person to make an inappropriate use of the Orange Order or its symbols to make a political point and he is unlikely to be the last.”
Mr McCord said he was pleased to be addressing a conference of republicans whose political views “are completely the opposite to my own”.
“After I spoke, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness came over to me and thanked me for speaking.
“A couple of other republicans came up to me and said I had some guts to come down there wearing a sash. I explained that it was my culture and I am not a bigot.”
The grieving father now wants a meeting with new DUP junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson to discuss the findings of the Ombudsman’s report with him.
“I want to know why nothing has been done since then and why the findings of the report have been dropped altogether,” he said.