29 January 2006

McDowell to meet with loyalist group after Dublin FAIR parade

Sunday Independent

Unionists to seek Minister's cooperation with investigations into unsolved murders


THE Minister for Justice has agreed to meet Unionist victims of IRA violence who will take part in a rally in Dublin next month.

Michael McDowell has agreed to open the doors of the Dail to relatives of victims of some of the worst IRA atrocities of the last 30 years immediately after the rally.

The Leinster House meeting will follow a parade from Parnell Square along O'Connell Street and Dawson Street on Saturday, February 25, for a rally outside the Dail.

Over 1,000 Unionists are expected to take part in the event which is being organised by groups representing victims of IRA violence across the North.

Families who lost loved ones in the Kingsmill massacre, the Shankill bombing and the La Mon massacre will be among those who will meet the Minister.

Mr McDowell confirmed the meeting in an email to the Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson last week after the pair discussed the parade and rally following a BBC Question Time programme.

Mr Donaldson said he appreciated the Minister's gesture and hoped next month's rally in Dublin would pass off peacefully and convey to the public in the south the extent of grief and suffering inflicted by the IRA.

"I am delighted the Minister has agreed to meet the relatives of IRA victims in Northern Ireland after the rally. They have very real concerns about IRA activity in the Republic and the need for the Irish government to cooperate with investigations into the large number of unsolved IRA murders that were planned and executed in the border area. That is the main issue we want to raise with Mr McDowell," the MP said.

Willie Frazer from the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives group, who is one of the main organisers of the rally, said he expected that well over 1,000 people would travel to Dublin for the event.

"We want to restrict the numbers to around the 1,000 mark although I would imagine the number attending will be greater than that because of the interest expressed about the rally," Frazer said.

Eight Loyalist bands from different parts of Northern Ireland will travel with the relatives and details are being worked out with gardai about where coaches can be safely parked near the assembly point in Parnell Square.

"Many more bands wanted to participate in the parade but we have restricted the number to eight and that should provide enough music and colour for the day. We do not want to bring Dublin to a standstill, or cause offence and we hope we will be allowed to walk peacefully in Dublin to convey the message about how our relatives died at the hands of the IRA," the victims spokesman said.

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