Protest ‘never intended to clash with Bloody Sunday march’

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LEADING loyalists in Londonderry have said that Sunday’s rally in the city was never intended to clash with the Bloody Sunday march happening at the same time on the west bank of the Foyle.

Plans by loyalists to hold a rally in Ebrington Square this weekend, January 27, have now changed with the route of the parade now moving away from the former barracks area and into the heart of the Irish Street estate.

A new submission for a proposed route of the parade was submitted to the Parades Commission on Thursday night following intensive behind the scenes discussions with loyalist groupings, police and peace groups in the city.

The submission to the Parades Commission was lodged by a group called the Loyalist Civil Rights Movement and plans to see 350 marchers assemble in Bonds Street at 2pm, with the parade anticipated to begin at 2.30pm.

The route as it stands plans to move off from Bonds Street to Glendermott Road, Dennett Gardens, Bann Drive, Finn Gardens, Mourn Drive, Dennett Gardens again, Glendermott Road and finishing at the old Waterside Health Centre.

Loyalists in the city have also scuppered social media posts this afternoon that a planned picket for The Venue at Ebrington this evening, where the Ulster Boxing Championships are taking place, will go ahead. Although it has been confirmed that flag protests will take place tonight at Rossdowney Road and at Newbuildings, beginning at 6pm and lasting for around two hours.

Speaking to the Sentinel this afternoon, a spokesman for the Loyalist Civil Rights Movement, stressed that the various unionist groups involved in Sunday afternoons rally, part of the ongoing flags issue, “voluntarily reorganised” after Ilex said that no politically connected organisation would be allowed access to Ebrington since it has been designated a shared space for all people in the city.

The spokesman said that a proposal to access Browning Drive on Sunday afternoon and then turn into St Columb’s Park was also rejected in case anyone tried to inflame the situation by making for the Peace Bridge whilst the Bloody Sunday march was going on.

The Loyalist Civil Rights Movement also confirmed that there has not as yet been a determination by the Parades Commission on Sunday’s proposed route, but that discussions with the Commission this afternoon had been favourable and no alterations to the route are anticipated.

The Sentinel also asked the spokesman about the issue of Parachute Regiment flags flying in loyalist areas of the city recently and the potentially antagonistic effect this would have in the face of a Bloody Sunday parade.

Today the Ministry of Defence released a statement concerning the issue which said: “The illegal use of bogus regimental flags, emblems or motifs is not only contrary to the high standards demanded and promoted within the Armed Forces but also inappropriate, irresponsible and disrespectful to the men and women serving with distinction. Improper use outside of official regimental or unit functions is a matter for the Police service of Northern Ireland and elected representatives within the community.”

The Loyalist Civil Rights Movement spokesman told the Sentinel: “We are quite clearly asking people not to bring Parachute Regiment flags and we can understand the rationale behind why this should not be done. But we are also saying that we cannot prevent it if it happens.

“There are many emblems and symbols in this city offensive to our community and there needs to be a full discussion on that whole issue.”

The spokesman concluded by saying: “Regardless of statements put out by nationalist and republicans this week about the rally clashing with Bloody Sunday, this was not the case. This about highlighting issues of civil rights within the unionist community.”