Belfast City Council has voted to approve a parade for British soldiers through the city.
The motion to support a ‘homecoming’ parades for the Royal Irish Regiment (formerly the Ulster Defence Regiment) was backed by the DUP, UUP and Alliance parties, but opposed by the SDLP and Sinn Fein. The final vote was 26 to 20.
There were large protests at a previous parade in 2008, blasted by nationalists as coat-trailing and provocative, but it passed without serious violence.
The British Army said it had not yet finalised plans for the parade.
Sinn Fein councillor Gerard O’Neill said it would be “divisive”. “For many people there remains an issue concerning the British army’s involvement in the north of this country,” he added.
eirigi’s Padraic Mac Coitir has pledged that the socialist republican party would actively oppose any British army march through the city.
Mac Coitir said: “The Royal Irish Regiment is a sectarian militia that terrorised nationalist communities across the Six Counties and is now terrorising the people of Afghanistan. These people should be in front of war crimes tribunals, not being feted in the centre of an occupied city.
“The DUP’s bigotry and arrogance knows no bounds. They know the hurt that was caused to the many victims of British state violence the last time the RIR was paraded through Belfast and, now, they want to inflict that hurt all over again.”
Mac Coitir continued: “If the councillors in Belfast City Hall vote in favour of another RIR coat trailing procession tonight, they should be aware that opposition to their latest stunt will not stop there.
“eirigi has shown in the past that it is prepared to actively oppose the British military presence in Ireland and we will have no compunction about doing so again.
“The nationalist and republican people of Belfast are sick, sore and tired of having all the trappings of British imperialism flown in their faces. We will not stand idly by and watch war criminals being paraded through our streets.”