Loyalists have staged a highly controversial march through south Belfast in honour of a death squad linked to scores of sectarian murders during the conflict.
Crowds took part in the parade amid the rain through the mixed Ormeau Road area, 21 years since the deaths of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder. The UDA men were linked to scores of killings, including a 1992 massacre at a Belfast bookmakers in which five Catholics were killed.
The Parades Commission had warned against paramilitary regalia in the event. However, at least one band displayed a floral tribute to the UDA during the march.
The Commission gave the go-ahead to the march without significant restrictions despite the paramilitary commemoration causing outrage when it was first held last year.
In the end, the parade was a glorification of a murderous sectarian organisation and serial sectarian killers.
A memorial funded by Stormont’s Housing Executive was used to honour the UDA paramilitaries. Residents have previously called for the controversial memorial to be demolished after it became the centrepiece of an annual UDA commemoration.
In its ruling ahead of the march, the Parades Commission said it received a “significant number of complaints” from residents last year. The use of paramilitary trappings and participants acting in an intimidatory manner towards residents were among the issues raised.
However, it did not restrict the route or bands taking part, instead reiterating general requirements for participants on issues such as behaviour and attire.
The controversial parade came just weeks after the PSNI was accused of a U-turn on its flags policy in the same Ormeau Road area, effectively allowing the UDA to raise their flags outside the homes of nationalists.
Meanwhile, a loyalist band which played the anti-Catholic Famine Song close to St Patrick’s Church in Belfast will lead a fresh parade through the area today [Saturday].
Members of Bangor Protestant Boys caused controversy on Easter Monday when they played the hate anthem just yards from the city centre church. The band is expected to lead members of the Apprentice Boys past St Patrick’s and nearby nationalist Carrick Hill district.
Prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson is a leading member.
The Parades Commission has ordered the band to play only a drumbeat between the junction of the Westlink and Clifton Street and the junction of Donegall Street and Union Street during both the outgoing and return parades.