Veterans call off planned Londonderry parade

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Plans by Army veterans to parade through Londonderry next month have been postponed.

It is understood the Parades Commission was notified yesterday by the Justice for Veterans UK (JFVUK) group that its application to parade to the city’s War Memorial in The Diamond on March 4 was being withdrawn.

The veterans had initially said its parade aimed to highlight ongoing “vindictive” criminal investigations involving former British soldiers. The march was supposed to be one of a number taking place across Northern Ireland during 2017.

Dissident republicans had vowed to confront the veterans during their event in Londonderry, with the organisation known as Saoradh pledging to organise a “mass mobilisation” of “anti-imperialist organisations”.

The group known as Éirígí had also voiced their opposition, with spokesperson Pól Torbóid describing the veterans’ parade as “nothing less than a calculated insult to the dead of Bloody Sunday and their families, as well as all the other victims of British brutality in Ireland”.

However, the parade has now been postponed.

Last night, organiser Anto Wickham told the News Letter: “We are postponing the parade to avoid others exploiting the situation to create community tensions or to engage in violence.

“The veterans are peaceful and law abiding and their presence in the city threatens no-one.

“We regret there are still some in the community who cannot tolerate another point of view, who cannot accommodate others and who are opposed to free speech and freedom of assembly. These are all things that the veterans fought to uphold and maintain.

“Republicans talk much about respect but it is clear that some at least cannot show any respect for veterans and are intolerant of anything or anyone who is different from them. This is bigotry of the highest order and they diminish their own cause with their intolerant and threatening behaviour.

“Veterans will continue to uphold the law and behave in a dignified and peaceful manner. We want justice for veterans and we want to be treated with equality under the law. Clearly some republicans can’t cope with either.”

The decision to withdraw the parade application was welcomed by Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney.

He said: “The Bloody Sunday families quite rightly described the proposed march as provocative and Sinn Fein totally support their position on the matter.

“However, given the news that the march will now not go ahead, we are content that the organisers have made the correct decision in the circumstances.”