11 December 2005

Orangemen plan Dublin 'love parade'

Sunday Times

Liam Clarke
The Sunday Times
December 11, 2005

A “LOVE ULSTER” parade is being planned for the centre of Dublin next month, including bands carrying Union Jacks and Orangemen wearing collarettes and carrying banners.

The march along O’Connell Street and on to Leinster House will be led by northern victims of republican violence. It is designed to protest against the Irish and British governments’ plan to introduce legislation allowing on-the-run (OTR) terrorists to return to Ireland and benefit from an amnesty.

Willie Frazer, a spokesman for Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair), a loyalist victims’ group, is one of the main organisers. He is working out the details with gardai but hopes the demonstration will take place on January 28.

“We asked the gardai if it would be a problem to fly a Union flag and they said it would not. The plan is that the bands will carry the Union Jack and the Ulster flag. We will show respect to the tricolour, but we will not be carrying it on the march,” said Frazer.

An Orange parade planned for Dublin in 2000 was cancelled after intimidation of members of the Dublin and Wicklow lodges. Mary Freehill, the then lord mayor of Dublin, was threatened and abused after she supported the Orange Order’s plan to march down Dawson Street.

Frazer estimated that January’s parade would involve 1,000 people, including 200 victims of violence, six flute bands and Orange Order members and supporters. Smaller demonstrations aimed at highlighting awareness of loyalist victims are also planned for Westminster and the European parliament in Brussels.

These parades are normally restricted to unionist areas of Northern Ireland, with the most recent Love Ulster rally, held last October, passing along the loyalist Shankill Road.

“If we can parade in Dublin with no bother what is the problem in Northern Ireland?” said Frazer. “It is only when republicans get involved that there is a problem. This shows that people in the south are more tolerant and mature in their attitudes than northern nationalists.”

The Irish government will not, however, escape criticism at the march. It aims to spread the message of unionist and loyalist discontent beyond Ulster, highlighting the community’s anger and frustration with the peace process, which the organisers describe as a “process of appeasement”.

Speakers will contrast the position of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe, who remain in jail and are excluded from the OTR provisions in the republic, with killers of police officers and civilians in the north who will be released on licence.

The rally will also focus on the fact that Fianna Fail has ruled out Sinn Fein as a coalition partner but is urging unionists in the north to share power with republicans.

Shortly before the scheduled date for the protest, the Irish and British governments will receive a report from the International Monitoring Commission that they hope will say the IRA has ceased violent and criminal activity. If that happens, the two governments plan to use the improved political and security climate to put pressure on the Democratic Unionist party to enter talks with Sinn Fein.

The parade is scheduled to march the length of O’Connell Street and to culminate in a rally outside Leinster House where it will be addressed by DUP and Ulster Unionist politicians as well as victims’ groups. Frazer said Jeffrey Donaldson, a DUP MP and a strong supporter of Fair, will be asked to attend.

Last night Donaldson said: "I am not afraid to take the unionist case to Dublin, I have done so in the past and in principle I am willing to do so again."

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