Parades Commission challenged over IRA event

Castlederg parade. Image courtesy of BBC
Castlederg parade. Image courtesy of BBC

The Parades Commission was yesterday pressed on why it apparently placed so few restrictions on the weekend’s controversial republican parade in Castlederg compared to a similar event that Kingsmills victims attempted to organise in south Armagh last year.

The DUP and TUV are also both challenging the Parades Commission, PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to take strong action against extensive paramilitary trappings in the republican parade, contrary to legal restrictions from the Parades Commission.

The parade was planned to commemorate Tyrone IRA members who died during the Troubles, in particular two men from Castlederg who died in Donegal 40 years ago when a bomb they were transporting to Castlederg exploded early.

TUV leader Jim Allister yesterday wrote to Peter Osborne, chair of the Parades Commission, asking why the body did not impose restrictions on the parade similar to those imposed on a march organised by family members of those murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976.

“On that occasion the commission ruled that only survivors and two immediate relatives of those who were killed or injured in the attack are allowed to proceed through the village of Whitecross,” he said. “There will be many wondering why the commission did not impose similar restrictions on the republican parade on Sunday.”

The commission approved the republican parade to have 500 participants and 500 supporters. Last year, the Kingsmills families opted not to parade at all after Sinn Fein opposition and a death threat to their spokesman, Pastor Barrie Halliday.

Both Mr Allister and DUP MLA Arlene Foster yesterday highlighted what they saw as clear breaches of the legal requirements put on the republican parade by the commission, including provocative jeering at IRA victims, a banner featuring depictions of armalite rifles, a Lambeg-style drum featuring men with balaclavas and the paramilitary uniforms of a colour party.

The TUV leader also wrote to the Chief Constable outlining the same points, adding: “In light of the above and in view of the extremely robust action against flag protestors who are alleged to have breached parading legislation, I look forward to you taking swift and robust action against the ringleaders of this disgraceful event.”

DUP MLA Arlene Foster, who attended the IRA victims’ protest in the town on Sunday along with party colleague Gregory Campbell MP, said yesterday that she had spoken to a senior officer from G District.

“He has confirmed that the PSNI are preparing files to be passed to the Director of Public Prosecution,” she said.

She would also be talking with Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton about the PSNI’s response to the parade and is seeking a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory regarding the standard of evidence required under the Terrorism Act in relation to the glorification of terrorism, she said.

A Parades Commission spokesman said yesterday they had just received Jim Allister’s letter and could not comment on it.

A spokeswoman said: “Once the reports from both the PSNI and Parades Commission monitors are submitted, the commission will consider very carefully the allegations being made about possible breaches of the Castlederg determination.

“Until those are submitted there can be no further comment.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “This has been a difficult few weeks for the people of Castlederg and feelings in the area have been running high.

“Our role at the parade and protest was to keep people safe and ensure everyone kept within the law. Any alleged breaches of the Parades Commission determination will be thoroughly investigated and reported on at the earliest opportunity.”