Para rally plan faces strong opposition

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A “mass rally” in support of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment in Belfast next month is set to be opposed by republicans.

The ‘Paras Fight Back’ rally is expected to take place outside Belfast City Hall on April 27.

Plans for a separate motorcycle ride in support of Soldier F, a former British soldier who is to be prosecuted for allegedly murdering two men on Bloody Sunday, have also been lodged with the Parades Commission.

Relatives of those killed in Derry have branded the rally plan a “disgrace” .

The Parachute Regiment massacred 14 in Derry during a civil rights march in January 1971. After a justice campaign spanning five decades, it was announced this month that only one of those involved, known as Soldier F, is set to be prosecuted with the murder of two of the victims and the attempted murder of another four.

Victims of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre have also expressed their disgust. Members of the regiment killed 11 people over three days in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971. An inquest into those killings is currently underway.

Kate Nash, whose brother William Nash (19) was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said that event should not be allowed to go ahead.

“I think it’s a absolute disgrace,” she said.

Soldier F, the only former paratrooper to be prosecuted over the Bloody Sunday shootings, joined the Parachute Regiment in 1966 and left the army in 1988. The former soldier admitted firing 13 rounds on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

His assertion that he shot at “gunmen and bombers” was rejected in the report of the Saville Inquiry, which was published in 2010.

Saville stated that there was “no doubt” Soldier F had shot and killed Patrick Doherty, a father-of-six who was unarmed and Bernard McGuigan, as he went to the aid of Mr Doherty, waving a white handkerchief.

The rally on his behalf has been organised by ‘Northern Ireland Crown Forces Veterans for Justice’.

The IRSP said it intends to hold a counter rally while Saoradh said they would also oppose Britain’s “war machine”.

Saoradh said the former British “mercenaries” had been effectively “chased out” of Derry. They described the planned demo as “a triumphalist rally in Belfast that will celebrate their murderous activities in Ireland”.

“As Saoradh have shown at these grotesque displays in previous years, we will not be found wanting when it comes to challenging these War Criminals on the streets of Ireland’s second city,” they said.

The IRSP in Belfast said it was “calling on all republicans, socialists and anti-imperialists to join with us in a counter rally, uniting behind the ‘Republicans against British Imperialism’ banner. There shall be no hiding place for Britain’s war criminals on the streets of Ireland.”

Plans for a “motorcycle ride” in support of Soldier F in Belfast in two weeks time have also been condemned. An application has been made to the Parades Commission to hold the event on Friday April 12 around parts of east and south Belfast.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Raymond McCartney said the event would pass a number of nationalist areas where civilians were killed by the British Army.

“They are doing so in support of a former soldier who faces two murder charges and four attempted murder charges as a result of his actions on Bloody Sunday.

“Not only is this an affront to the families of Bloody Sunday who have battled for 47 years for truth and justice, it is also an insult to those in Belfast, including the Ballymurphy families and many others, who are still grieving the loss of loved ones at the hands of the British Army.”

Flags supporting the Parachute Regiment have been put up in several parts of the north in recent weeks, including along some interfaces.

A large banner has also been erected in the town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim, carrying the slogan `Carrickfergus stands with soldier F – stop persecuting our veterans’. The PSNI have refused to take action, symbols, insisting they can only respond when there is a serious risk to public safety.

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