LOYALISTS are to hold a ‘Unionist Civil Rights Rally’ at Ebrington on the same day as the annual Bloody Sunday march, it’s been revealed.
Fringe unionists from both the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) are amongst those backing the move.
UKIP spokesperson for Foyle, Kyle Thompson, said the party has been organising in the city and has been in attendance at protests over Belfast City Council’s controversial decision to fly the Union Flag on designated days only.
Mr Thompson told the Sentinel: “We have been at a number of the current protests. We have also been made aware of one on January 27, 2013 to coincide with the ‘Bloody Sunday’ march.”
Leslie Mitchell of the PUP said it was fully supportive of the rally.
“Our party activists are assisting along with others in its organising, and many off our members shall be taking part on the day,” he told the paper.
“We are calling on as many members of the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community to come out and join the rally at Ebrington on January 27,” he added.
Mr Thompson said the ongoing flag protests, whilst an inconvenience, are a necessity. He said the people involved in the protests are not thugs but “genuine people with genuine concerns” who are fed up with what they see as the “relentless appeasement of republicans.”
He labelled the compulsory coalition at Stormont as “undemocratic” and the former policy of recruiting Catholics and Protestants to the PSNI on a 50/50 basis as negative sectarianism.
Unionists are fed up with “cultural ethnic cleansing” in Northern Ireland and the flag issue is merely the tipping point, said Mr Thompson.
He explained: “The Good Friday Agreement and the various amendments were seen by Unionists as the ending of the Republican campaign of sectarian ethnic cleansing and recognition of Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.
“However what we have seen is an appeasement process to ensure that Republicans do not return to violence. This has resulted in numerous decisions that all right thinking people should find appalling.
“We have an undemocratic government at Stormont, where no party can be voted out of power. So a vote for the DUP/UUP/Sinn Féin/SDLP/Alliance is a vote for them all.
“We have sectarian recruitment to the PSNI, Prison Service and other Civil Service jobs and a Sinn Féin Minister keeping his job after being found to have discriminated against a person on grounds of his religion.”
On this point Mr Thompson is referring to a finding last summer, that former Department of Regional Development (DRD) Minister Conor Murphy’s evidence to an industrial tribunal concerning a civil servant who was overlooked for a job because of his religion, was “implausible and lacked credibility.”
Mr Murphy denies the sectarian charge.
Mr Thompson continued: “We have seen in this city and throughout Northern Ireland the cultural ethnic cleansing where anything British is seen as offensive and has to be removed to ensure a shared space.
“The list is endless. The fires of discontent have been raging within unionist communities for several years and the removal the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall was a tipping point.”
The UKIP spokesman said the protests would continue including at Ebrington on January 27.
“It is our understanding that a Unionist Civil Rights Rally will be held in Londonderry on Sunday 27th January 2013 meeting in Ebrington Square at 2pm. UKIP will continue to support peaceful protests and engage with those involved to help assist them in addressing their concerns,” he stated.
UKIP has never contested elections in Londonderry. Nigel Gardiner of the PUP polled 204 votes in the local council elections in 2011 but was not elected. This was the highest poll for a non-mainstream unionist since Brian Gurney won 287 votes in the first Assembly Election of 1998.