UDA will be ‘suited and booted’ at Ormeau event

By Paul Ainsworth

ORGANISERS of an anti-Home Rule commemoration rally at Ormeau Park next month have played down concerns that loyalist paramilitaries will have a visible presence at the event.

The ‘Balmoral Review’ centenary rally commemorating a blood and thunder speech by unionist Edward Carson in South Belfast, is set to feature “all aspects” of unionist culture when it takes place at the end of May.

Organisers have already come under fire for not revealing details of “feeder parades” which will bring revellers to the park from locations across Belfast. Now concern is mounting that loyalist paramilitaries will be involved, under the guise of the Ulster Defence Union.

UDA leader Jackie McDonald said at a conference last week that loyalism would be “joining in” the rally, alongside Orangemen and marching bands.

“The UDA will be suited and booted, the Ulster Defence Union will be wearing their green blazers and what have you.”

Mr McDonald stated at the ‘Future of Loyalism’ conference in Belfast last Wenesday that he believed the parade would feature antique machine guns going past nationalist areas such as the Short Strand, and expressed sympathy with residents, claiming organisers should be “taking into consideration” how nationalists would view the event.

He also predicted thousands of spectators lining the route to Ormeau Park for the Joint Unionist Centenary Committee gala.

However speaking to the South Belfast News, a representative of the JUCC, Stephen Gough dismissed some of the claims, and said those taking part would be adhering to Belfast City Council rules which strictly forbid any modern paramilitary regalia or symbols from being visible during the rally.

“First of all I can state there will be no guns on the road, while the numbers cited for lining the route are wildly exaggerated. This will not be the case, and we will have one period vehicle included.”

However, when pressed on the inclusion of paramilitary groups such as the UDA and “modern” UVF, he added: “We offered this event out to the community and the community is the community. We aren’t going to differentiate.”

The DUP are one of the “stakeholders” in the JUUC.

Local Councillor Chris Stalford criticised “inflammatory language” in the lead up to the event.

“In regards to the claims of paramilitaries and parade numbers, it’s incumbent upon everybody to use language that will not enflame the situation,” he said. “I really hope that people from a non-unionist background will come along and learn more about the history of the culture.”

 

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