A dissident republican group has called for a “mass mobilisation” of “anti-imperialist organisations” to confront a Justice For Veterans UK (JFVUK) march in Londonderry next month.
Around 100 military veterans are due to walk from the Waterside Royal British Legion hall to the cenotaph in the city centre in protest at what they call “vindictive” investigations involving former soldiers.
The JFVUK event on March 4 is one of a number of protest marches across Northern Ireland planned for 2017, and the organiser has stressed it “was not set up to be deliberately provocative”.
The veterans’ application was considered by the Parades Commission, was not subsequently listed as ‘sensitive’ and therefore did not have any restrictions imposed.
However, news of the march sparked an angry backlash from republicans on social media - as well as a menacing statement from one dissident group against what they branded a “grotesque proposal”.
In a Facebook post yesterday afternoon, the Saoradh group said it viewed the march application “with disgust” and added: “Saoradh Doire will be organising a mass mobilisation to demonstrate local and national opposition to this charade that seeks to justify the killing of Irish citizens.”
The Saoradh protest is timed to coincide with the veterans’ arrival at the cenotaph.
Although Saoradh states it is providing a “peaceful, radical” opportunity to protest, it adds: “We shall assemble at Free Derry Corner and march to The Diamond at exactly the same time as this pro-imperialist British Army event.”
PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “PSNI received the 11/1 notification and submitted it to the Parades Commission. We are now engaging with the organisers and the local community in relation to this event.”
Parade organiser Anto Wickham said: “JFVUK would like to assure the people of Londonderry that this march is not in any way shape or form set up to be deliberately provocative. We have carried out three other marches in towns and cities in Northern Ireland so that veterans have a voice and a platform to protest against the British government and its treatment of its veterans.
“This march, like all the others, is veterans showing their anger and frustration at the British government. Not any other group or section of our community.”
Mr Wickham added: “Veterans are concerned that without intervention and oversight of the legal professionals contracted by the Ministry of Defence, the UK government could unintentionally allow the personal sacrifices and service of UK veterans to be ignored and vilified for political expediency.”
A spokesman for the Parades Commission confirmed it has received representations in relation to the JFVUK parade, and added: “Where there is an indication of concern about a parade, the commission will consider all available information including any representations. The commission may then meet to formally assess a parade’s impact on community relations, community life, public order and competing human rights.”