AROUND 30 loyalist protesters gathered for approximately an hour this morning (Friday) on Spencer Road, outside the offices of Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson.
The demonstration took the form of a white line picket after plans to gather on the footpath outside the political party’s office were thwarted by the PSNI and protesters were moved onto the road.
Demonstrators carried placards stating: ‘Tell The Truth About PIRA Genocide’, ‘End Sinn Fein Impunity Now’, whilst other posters carried a highly graphic image of a pair of hands coated red and stating ‘Sinn Fein hands - Dripping in Blood.’ One protester carried a lone Union flag for the duration of the protest, whilst another had the Union flag draped around him.
The police operation was low key throughout the protest which began shortly after 11am and ended at noon. No disruption was caused to passing traffic.
Speaking to the Sentinel during the protest, Londonderry Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) member, Nigel Gardiner said that today’s protest was held in order to highlight a “conglomerate” of issues.
“The Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community sees that inquiries into the past are one-sided in favour of one section of the community. We are also here to highlight issues such as health and education and unemployment. Political parties in Northern Ireland have to be challenged on these issues-to make them actually create opportunities for everybody. The Programme for Government in Northern Ireland said it would create 25,000 jobs - well, where are they?.
“The levels of educational attainment in the Protestant community is abysmal, as it is in some sections of the Catholic community. But, civil rights are supposed to be for all, for all sections of the community,” the PUP man said.
Asked why this morning’s protest centred on the Waterside Sinn Fein offices, Mr Gardiner said: “If you are genuine about opening the hand of friendship then it’s all about equilibrium and balance for all. The perception that this is not the case has become a reality for our community. There needs to be genuine respect for all traditions.”
Nigel Gardiner also said that the issue of attempting to drop the UK prefix in the title of UK City of Culture and government mail increasingly using the name of Derry as opposed to Londonderry were examples of a gradual erosion of British identity and were “repugnant” to the PUL community.
“If you want Protestants to move back to the cityside then how are you going to achieve this when sectarianism is on the increase and nationalist political parties are in denial over it? The community and voluntary sector cannot resolve this issues alone. Politicians need to do the job they were elected to do. What we are currently witnessing in Northern Ireland is abject political failure,” he said.
Asked what message he had for Sinn Fein during this morning’s protest, Mr Gardiner said: “The message is the need for real equality, to embrace all cultures, not just when it suits the political process. There is an issue of people speaking with forked tongues. For too long lip service has been paid to issues such as victimisation. Equality is not apparent to the PUL community and thus needs to be tackled.”