Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day marked by parade in Belfast

The March of Life parade makes its way through Belfast city centre
The March of Life parade makes its way through Belfast city centre

Some 150 people have paraded through the streets of Belfast to mark Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day as part of a reconciliation event run with former Nazis.

The March Of Life is an initiative organised by German Christians who, together with descendants of German Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the Nazi SS, have organised memorial and reconciliation marches at Holocaust sites all over Europe since 2007.

Belfast’s own March Of Life parade started just after 3pm on Sunday at the Jaffe Fountain at Victoria Square and took in Cornmarket, Donegall Place and Donegall Square North.

The peaceful procession carried a large banner which said ‘March Of Life - Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day’.

“The parade was made up of members of the Christian and Jewish community from Northern Ireland,” said Michael McNally from Bangor, who was a key organiser of the local expression of the event.

There were no protests and minimal police presence.

“During the walk, the flags of all European nations were carried, representing the international aspect of this event,” he said.

“Flags are an inherent part of Northern Ireland society but never before have so many flags of so many different nations been carried in a single demonstration of solidarity.”

Mr McNally said he was apolitical and did not want to comment on recent tensions on anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

Asked if he thought opposition to Israel was anti-Semitic, he replied: “They are very close. Every country and government makes mistakes but Israelis are more critical of their policies than any other nation.

“They are also a democracy and that says something as they are surrounded by non-democratic states.”

Steven Jaffe, co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said he was proud to support the march.

He said: “At a time when anti-Semitism and extremism is on the rise in so many parts of the world, and hatred towards Israel becomes ever more aggressive, it has never been more important for people of goodwill to publicly proclaim their opposition to Jew hatred in all of its forms, to remember the tragic history of the Holocaust, and to work tirelessly for peace and reconciliation between different communities.”

North Down DUP councillor Peter Martin also supported the march.

“It is a timely event, especially when anti-Semitism is on the rise, primarily now from those on the far left, that we do not just watch this happen but make a clear and visual stand against it,” he said.