Veterans’ march venue switched to Coleraine

Veterans taking part in a previous march to highlight concerns over Troubles legacy and conflict investigations

Veterans taking part in a previous march to highlight concerns over Troubles legacy and conflict investigations

A march in support of military veterans that was cancelled following republican threats will take place in another area of Co Londonderry, organisers have said.

News of the Justice For Veterans UK (JFVUK) parade from the Waterside to the city of Londonderry’s cenotaph next month sparked a number of sinister statements from republican groups – calling for “mass mobilisation” to “forcefully and radically” confront those taking part.

Republicans talk about respect but it is clear that some at least cannot show any respect for veterans

In addition to the confrontational language being used by dissident republicans on social media, relatives of those shot dead by the Parachute Regiment in the city on Bloody Sunday called it “deliberately provocative”.

Speaking on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Minty Thompson said: “British soldiers should not be above the law, they cannot be above the law, and there should be no credence given to hypocritical demands that they should be.”

The veterans march in Londonderry was one of a number being organised for locations across Northern Ireland during 2017. Similar JFVUK events have already been held in Belfast and Portadown.

On Thursday evening, organiser Anto Wickham said the March 4 application had been withdrawn “to avoid others exploiting the situation to create community tensions or to engage in violence”.

He said: “Republicans talk much about respect but it is clear that some at least cannot show any respect for veterans and are intolerant of anything or anyone who is different from them. This is bigotry of the highest order.”

Despite the setback, on Monday he told the News Letter that a new application has been submitted to the Parades Commission to hold the march in Coleraine on the same date.

“After we cancelled our march in Londonderry, for the safety of all veterans and the larger community, I am so happy to say that we will still be holding a march for justice in the county of Londonderry.

“With the help from the Royal British Legion (RBL) in Coleraine we are now able to parade and carry on our fight for justice,” Mr Wickham said.

The Royal Irish veteran from Craigavon, who has three sons who served in Afghanistan, said: “We hope that veterans will understand our reasons for cancelling this march.

“We have to take into account how veterans get to and from the march and what could have happened with all the threats that have come in. This was not taken lightly and was a very hard decision to take.”

Any veterans wishing to take part in the Coleraine event are asked to gather at the RBL hall for 1.30pm for the parade to the cenotaph moving off at 2pm – wearing regimental blazers and headdress if available but otherwise smart civilian clothes.

“If you have any regimental flags and standards it would be great seeing them on parade,” Mr Wickham added.