As First World War banners banned from part of Whiterock loyalist parade PUP asks ‘Are we meant to be ashamed of WWI soldiers?’

The PUP has spoken out against a decision by the Parades Commission to stop World War One banners being displayed during part of a major march today.

It said that the commission’s decision suggests that people should be “ashamed” of the actions of Northern Irish soldiers during the 1914-18 war, and only adds to the sense that the parades body is “long beyond being fit-for-purpose”.

However the commission has responded by saying such a condition dates back to 2006, and arose thanks to “dialogue” following rioting linked to the parade in 2005.

The party (which has historic UVF connections and is presently led by Billy Hutchinson) was reacting to a story broken by the News Letter yesterday about today’s Whiterock parade.

Mural in a loyalist section of the Ormeau area of south Belfast (since replaced)

The annual loyalist parade in west Belfast has had conditions imposed upon it, which can be summarised as follows:

The parade is forbidden from passing through a security gate at an interface between the loyalist Springmartin area and the republican Springfield Road.

Instead the parade has been rerouted to avoid spending too much time on the Springfield Road, where a counter-protest is set to take place.

While on the road, hymns only are allowed to be played.

In addition, there are restrictions on the display of paramilitary-related banners – specifically, ones carried by the Pride of the Ardoyne band honouring UVF men William Hanna and Samuel Rockett.

The Ulster University Troubles database CAIN notes that Samuel Rockett was a 21-year old shot dead in 2000 in north Belfast as part of a feud with the UDA.

It also says William Hanna was a 28-year-old shot by the Army in 1978 in north Belfast.

Such banners must be furled on the Springfield Road section of the route.

However, the commission also went on to say that “the flag of the 36th Ulster Division and the flag of the 14th Royal Irish Rifles (YCV) relating to World War One ... must remain furled on that section of the parade route” too.

In a statement yesterday, PUP Armed Forces spokesperson Jim McCaw said: “Both Protestant and Catholic soldiers served with the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizen Volunteers).

“So why are we to be so ashamed of the sacrifice of these men that we should furl perfectly legal, historically accurate World War One flags, [displayed] in remembrance and gratitude for the freedom we all enjoy today?

“This unjustifiable determination from the Parades Commission must be challenged, reversed, and it is imperative a public apology and accountability must be forthcoming.”

Last night the commission told the News Letter: “The condition relating to the flags of the 14th Royal Irish Rifles (YCV) and the 36th Ulster Division being furled was first included in 2006 following dialogue between both sides.”

In its 2006 ruling, it had said: “The Commission commends in the strongest terms both groups for the spirit in which they have participated in the dialogue process, and for what has been achieved...

“The Commission has heard that an understanding has been reached on the issues of music; size of the parade; and on flags to be displayed.”

There are also restrictions on flags which can be flown at today’s parade, limiting marchers to their lodge banners, the Orange Standard, the Ulster Banner, the Union flag, and the flags of Wales and Scotland (but, bizarrely, not the flag of England).

The parade is set to take place at 2pm involving 16 bands and as many as 950 marchers.

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