Protests planned over controversial British army march

by Democrat reporter

FEARS THAT a British army parade in Belfast tomorrow could lead to a major confrontation between loyalists and nationalists remain undiminished, despite concessions by mainstream republicans and the organisers of the parade.

Speaking about the army parade for troops which have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Sinn Fein MLA, Paul Maskey said that it was deeply controversial:

"This an event with three different military regiments from the British army. This is a city where many people have lost their lives at the hands of Britain. Why have the Mod done this? No-one has voted for this."

Unionist politicians have urged the public to come out to support the troops.

British prime minister Gordon Brown, who insists that the troops deserve community support, has appealed for calm on the streets of Belfast on Sunday when republicans will protest against a homecoming parade for troops returning from Afghanistan. Sinn Fein MLA, Paul Maskey is one of those who insists that the parade is controversial:

"This an event with three different military regiments from the British army. This is a city where many people have lost their lives at the hands of Britain. Why have the Mod done this? No-one has voted for this."

Despite Sinn Fein's clear opposition to the parade, the party's tone has been notably conciliatory and the Sinn Fein leaders have been involved in moves to ensure that confrontation between its supporters and loyalist and unionists, and the police, is minimised.

Sinn Fein's approach is not accepted by all republican groups and the republican socialist group éirígí is planning to go ahead with an illegal protest. The group has declined to seek the permission of the Parades Commission for its protest against the march and has dismissed a last-minute amendment to the British Army's controversial Belfast march as being nothing more than a publicity stunt.

éirígí say that their protest will go ahead as planned at 10.30am on Sunday at the Divis Tower. Speaking after details of the British army's revised plans were made public, éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said:

"The British army announced that its troops would march unarmed through the streets of Belfast and that it was cancelling the fly-over element of its military display. This comes on the back of last week's changes to both the time and route of their parade.

None of these changes make any difference whatsoever to éirígí?s planned protest on Sunday morning. Even a single British soldier parading through Belfast or any other Irish city is one too many.

éirígí has welcomed backing for its protest from two independent republican councillors in the six counties.

A joint statement issued by councillor Martin Connolly of Newry and Mourne Council, and Councillor Barry Monteith of Dungannon District Council, calls upon the British Army to cancel its controversial parade through Belfast tomorrow. In the absence of such a cancellation the duo are calling on people to attend éirígí's protest at 10.30am at the Divis Tower in West Belfast.

Speaking shortly after the joint statement was released to the media Leeson said:

"The joint statement issued by Barry and Martin is particularly welcome as we count down the days to the British Army's latest provocative adventure in Ireland.

"The fact that the councillors represent two areas well away from Belfast speaks volumes about the impact that this military display is having on nationalist and republican Ireland. Their statement is reflective of the sentiment that éirígí is encountering in many parts of Ireland. From Cork to Belfast people are outraged at the idea of this parade which seeks to glorify imperialism and military aggression.

Full text of the joint statement by Councillors Barry Monteith and Martin Connolly:

"This Sunday's provocative British Army parade through Belfast city centre exposes the true nature of Britain's role in Ireland. No longer can the British government portray itself as the 'honest broker' without selfish interest in Ireland.

"The parading of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force through the streets of Belfast is a deliberate and calculated political act. The fact that the British Army regiment in question is the Royal Irish Regiment further exposed the true agenda of those who organised this parade.

"The Royal Irish Regiment and it predecessor Ulster Defence Regiment record of terrorising the nationalist community is well documented. When out of uniform many members of these regiments continued their reign of terror as members of unionist death-squads. Thousands of families across Ireland suffer to this day as a result of the actions carried out by these official and unofficial British militias.

"Those who organised Sunday's parade hoped that it would contribute to the long-running British policy of 'normalisation' in Ireland. What, after all, could be more 'normal' then the British Army parading through the streets of a British city?

"The only problem with this scenario is that Belfast is not a British city. To allow Sunday's parade to pass without public protest would have been to hand the British government a propaganda victory of massive proportions.

"With multiple anti-British Army protests now organised this Sunday's parade will now highlight the abnormality of Britain's occupation rather than the hoped for 'normality' of the six counties. In this regard éirígí are to be commended for the leading role they have taken in organising opposition to Sunday's military show-piece.

"Those who have criticised éirígí for not asking the Parades Commission for permission to organise their protest fail to understand the true nature of Irish republicanism. Never in the long and noble history of the republican struggle - with its roots in the mountains that overlook Belfast - have republicans asked the permission of the British government to organise opposition to its occupation of Ireland.

"In not asking the permission of the Parades Commission éirígí are asserting those most basic of democratic rights - the right of free association and the right to politically organise. Republicans are more than capable of organising large, disciplined, peaceful, protests without the input of the British state - as will be demonstrated on Sunday.

"Last week the British army changed the start time and route of its parade in the face of growing opposition. This week they should go all the way and cancel their parade entirely. "If they fail to do so republicans from across Ireland should make their way to Belfast to attend the éirigi protest at 10.30am at the Divis Tower."

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2008-11-02 06:31:03.
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