A desire to keep the memory of IRA victims alive in the face of efforts to “airbrush” them from history has been credited with increasing the size of an annual remembrance event.
That was the view from Colin Hussey, a former comrade of the murdered men, as hundreds of marchers gathered for the occasion in Belfast city centre on Saturday.
A parade from east Belfast through the city centre drew hundreds of Orangemen, bandsmen and supporters to remember UDR men Frederick Starrett and James Cummings, who were killed in a republican bomb attack close to what is now CastleCourt shopping centre.
The two Orangemen (who belonged to Banner of the Cross LOL 1310 and Johnston’s Golden Star LOL 1934, respectively) were killed on February 24, 1988 – Pte Cummings died instantly, and Pte Starrett died of his injuries the next day.
A second bomb, believed to have been intended for the police or Army, was discovered and defused. No one was ever convicted of the murders.
Mr Hussey, a 52-year-old east Belfast man, was a private in the UDR at around the same time and knew the pair.
Saturday’s event saw an address given by Free Presbyterian minister Rev David McIlveen, and tributes laid.
Mr Hussey described it as a “poignant” event, and the biggest one he has been to yet.
“I’ve gone ever since it started,” he said.
“But it seems to have really taken off now. There was always a wee bit of a gathering; people would have gathered, but not in any great numbers. But from the 25th anniversary it’s really taken off.
“There’s a lot of things happening now; they’re trying to airbrush stuff. Say things didn’t happen, didn’t exist. That’s making people realise more and more that if you don’t commemorate these things, they’ll just be forgotten about.”
Also at the event was DUP councillor Brian Kingston, who spoke to the mother of Pte Cummings and said that she had been “touched” by the level of support on the streets.