Belfast City Council this week voted that a civic reception for British troops should go ahead in November, despite nationalist opposition.
In November parades are being planned for members of the British armed forces.
Unionists had proposed that the council should hold a civic reception in Belfast on the same day as a ‘homecoming parade’.
However, nationalists opposed the move, arguing that it was wrong to glorify the British Army in Ireland.
The Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), the subject of the reception, has a history of collusion with unionist paramilitaries and intimidation of nationalist communities in the Six Counties.
Formed out of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in 1992, the RIR adopted both its personnel and modus operandi.
The UDR itself emerged from the bigoted B Specials, the Stormont-paid thugs who took part in the pogroms against nationalist areas of Belfast and the Battle of the Bogside in 1969.
In the early 1970s, a secret British government report noted that many UDR men were also members of the UDA and UVF death squads and that weaponry was regularly going missing from UDR barracks and finding its way into the hands of these organisations.
Opposing the civic reception, Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maskey said: “The idea that there should be a civic reception for those taking part in a war which is internationally accepted to be entirely unjust is entirely wrong.
“This proposal has been put forward for no other reason than to create division within the city of Belfast.
“I think it sends out the entirely wrong message of what Belfast is supposed to be about.”
The SDLP said it opposed the parade because “it has always been a party of non-violence since its inception”.
“We recognise that there have been 176 British troops among the 4,400 allied forces killed,” said councillor Alex Attwood.
“But there have also been 655,000 Iraqi civilians killed and that should be remembered.”
The eirigi organisation said that a public display of British militarism in Belfast “would not go unchallenged”.
“This attempt to glorify the role of the RIR in the occupation of Afghanistan is part of a well-choreographed effort to normalise Britain’s other occupation in Ireland,” said chairperson Brian Leeson.
“In the last few weeks this has taken the form of a massive advertising campaign for the Territorial Army and, now, moves to parade troops through the streets of the Six Counties.
“All the parades in the world can’t hide the fact that the British Army in Ireland is a force of occupation -- the fact that the RIR are locally recruited mercenaries in no way lessens their role in that occupation.”
EAST BELFAST ANGER
The Royal Black Preceptory parade which passed the republican Short Strand area on Saturday morning blatantly flouted a Parades Commission determination not to play music while passing St Matthews Church and nationalist homes at Strand Walk.
This is the third year in a row where this particular parade, a feeder parade for the marching organisation’s main parade in Derry, has ignored the ruling.
In a blatant provocation, some of the bands played “the Sash” and “Here Lies A Soldier”, a song which is a “tribute” to the Shankill butcher Lenny Murphy, in what can only be seen as a blatant provocation.
Short Strand residents had been convinced to cancel their planned protest at this march in the hope that they would reciprocate in abiding by the determination which had been issued by the Parades Commission.