Union Jack raised over Sinn Fein offices
Union Jack raised over Sinn Fein offices

The first contentious loyalist parades of the year have passed off peacefully.

Members of the Ligoniel Walker Club Apprentice Boys marched past the Ardoyne area just after 8.30am on Sunday with a small group of natlonalist protesters present to voice opposition.

Sinn Fein representative Gerry Kelly and PSNI chief Matt Baggott were also present. The loyalist ‘feeder parade’ traditionally passes the area en route to a larger Apprentice Boys’ gathering in Derry. The feeder parade is normally less contentious than parades held during the summer because marchers do not walk past the republican area on their return route.

Meanwhile, an Apprentice Boys’ parade in Limavady, County Derry saw a Union Jack flag placed on a Sinn Fein office.

Sinn Fein councillor, Cathal O’hOisin, said the actions were an attack on democracy ahead of the Assembly and local elections.

“I call on unionist politicians and the organisers of such parades to stand up and say, ‘This is not acceptable’. I also understand there was a systematic removal of my posters after I visited Limavady in the morning.”

Mr. O’hOisin said he was “disappointed” the perpetrators felt the need to “disfigure” his election posters.

“This was a blatant disregard for the electoral process by those who felt they could not parade past them as they stood at that time,” he said. “We’ve had complaints about campaign literature being vandalised before, but this is something more sinister.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Anne Brolly said if people want to put up a flag in an area where it is welcome, “we have no problem with that, but the flag must be respected”.

“If whoever put the flag up putside our office wants to forge an alliance or get closer to Sinn Fein we welcome that,” she said. “Of course we don’t know if that was the intention, but if it was, we welcome it.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News