Sinn Féin and eirigi are to stage separate protests against a British Army parade through Belfast city centre on Sunday week.
A massive deployment of Crown forces is expected in Belfast on November 2 amid concerns that a triumphalist military procession will inflame tensions in the city.
Restrictions were placed on Sinn Féin’s protest by the Parades Commission requiring strict marshalling of the protest and an early start.
The British army parade and the Sinn Féin protest will be in sight of each other in central Belfast on Sunday week. The commission hopes a “sterile zone” of 40 metres separating the protest from the parade at Belfast City Hall will help to prevent trouble.
A rival “unauthorised” protest by the eirigi group will gather in west Belfast, some distance from the British Army parade route.
The British Army has brought forward its parade from 12.45pm on Sunday week to 11.45am in a further attempt to reduce the potential for violent confrontation.
The parade by the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment hasd outraged victims of the RIR’s predecessor in the North, the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
Large numbers of the UDR were members of unionist death squads and its weaponry and intelligence were used to kill scores of innocent nationalists. In particular, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Dundalk and Silverbridge bombings, the massacre of the Miami Show Band, and the murder of Louth man Seamus Ludlow have all been linked to the illegal activities of the UDR.
Sinn Féin has launched a poster and billboard campaign today against the British Army’s so-called “homecoming”.
West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Paul Maskey has said the Sinn Féin protest would be “dignified and peaceful” to highlight the continued opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “by people from right across the city of Belfast from many different backgrounds”.
“It is also to highlight the many victims of the British Army, UDR and RIR here at home; victims of collusion, intimidation, shoot to kill, torture and state murder,” he said.
“That is the legacy of the RIR here in Ireland.”
eirigi spokesperson Sean MacBradaigh criticised unionist “scaremongering” around his group’s counter-demonstration.
He pointed out that five thousand British troops remain garrisoned in the Six Counties and provide operational back up the PSNI police and MI5 intelligence activities.
“Much has been made of the fact that eirigi has not applied to the Parades Commission in the Six Counties for permission to hold a demonstration,” he said.
“It would be ludicrous for an Irish republican organisation to apply to the British occupying authorities for permission to protest against the British occupation.”
“The Irish people’s right to oppose the British occupation of Ireland is a fundamental right that cannot be left to the whims of a British Government appointed commission to adjudicate upon.”
He also criticised unionist politicians who he said, had “irresponsibly raised the spectre of violence in Belfast on Sunday week”.
“It is ironic that the same politicians who invited one of the most vicious regiments in the British army to coat-trail through the streets of Belfast are now attributing the threat of violence to those who are committed to peaceful protest.
“How did unionist politicians think nationalist Belfast was going to react once it was announced that the RIR, an organisation that terrorised nationalist communities for years, was going to be paraded through our city centre?
He also criticised the announcement that two bomber jets and three military helicopters are expected to stage a “flyover”, and will likely be used to spy on republicans on the day.
“Unionism needs to get real -- it is the British army and their supporters who will be bringing the weapons of war into Belfast city centre on November 2, not Irish republicans,” he concluded.