Row erupts over republican parade in Tyrone

Friday 09 August 2013 19.08
Theresa Villiers said the parade is damaging to community relations
Theresa Villiers said the parade is damaging to community relations

A row has broken out between unionists and republicans over an event organised by Sinn Féin in Castlederg, Co Tyrone this Sunday.

The parade will commemorate the deaths of two IRA men, who were blown up by a bomb they had been transporting 40 years ago.

Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has said the event will honour IRA volunteers who had sought to take on the British presence in Ireland and to bring about Irish freedom.

However, Democratic Unionist MLA Tom Buchanan has said the decision to hold the parade will open up old wounds for the families of victims who were murdered in premeditated attacks by the IRA.

He said no comparison could be drawn between Orange Order parades and the event planned in Castlederg.

Stormont Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson denounced the proposed event as "insensitive and inappropriate".

After meeting relatives of local victims yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the republican parade should be called off.

SDLP MLA for West Tyrone Joe Byrne described the planned parade as "insensitive".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One he said: "This sort of commemoration, 40 years on from the death of these men is unfortunate at this time and it is insensitive given there are so many raw wounds and so many people who were victims of atrocities within the troubles that we've had in the north of Ireland."

He also accused Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of abdicating their responsibility "in leadership terms", which he said has added to tensions and community unease on the whole situation.

The Tyrone Volunteers Day event will mark the deaths of Castlederg IRA members Seamus Harvey, 23, and Gerard McGlynn, 20.

They died in 1973 when a car bomb they were understood to be transporting to the town detonated early.

The explosion happened around 5km from Castlederg, across the border in Co Donegal.

Republicans in Co Tyrone hold the annual event to commemorate those who died in the Troubles.

The venue and time changes to coincide with particular events and dates, Castlederg was chosen this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the men's deaths.

But the move provoked intense anger from some victims of IRA violence, who called for it to be banned completely.

Although she said she did not have the power to halt the parade, Ms Villiers said: "Everyone who wants to build a genuinely shared future for Northern Ireland needs to consider the impact of their actions on people from different parts of the community.

"This parade is damaging to community relations and even at this late stage I would call upon the organisers to think again and call it off."

Sinn Féin argued the route has already been changed to avoid the most contentious areas and said it wanted to promote the concept of a "shared space" at the centre of the town.

The body that adjudicates on contentious parades has ruled that the republican event cannot proceed through the centre of Castlederg.

It has also made clear that no paramilitary style clothing, flags or other symbols relating to a proscribed organisation can be displayed by participants.

The Parades Commission has explained that the body has no power to ban a parade outright.