28 February 2006

Victims group 'will never cross the border again'

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
28 February 2006

Members of a Protestant victims' group whose parade was called off in Dublin last weekend will never stray into the Republic again, a spokesman for the group claimed today.

South Armagh Protestants' representative Willie Frazer warned that many participants in last Saturday's aborted Love Ulster parade were so appalled by the violent scenes that they will never venture across the border again.

Dublin was rocked by the worst violence since the H-block riots in 1981 as scores of gardai were injured and pitched battles fought across the city between dissident republicans and police.

Mr Fraser said last weekend's events had done little to convince members of his group of the tolerance of people in the south.

"There are quite a few people in Dublin on Saturday who will never go over the border again.

"It has done nothing to reassure them, in fact they are more convinced than ever that nothing has changed in the Republic," he said.

"We believe it is because we were victims of republican terrorism and that is what their problem was.

"We stand for what the republicans have inflicted for the last 35 years. This was a case of highlighting the victims' issue and saying that this is our culture."

Political leaders north and south of the border, from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey have condemned the violence.

Gardai are drawing up a report on the matter, to be submitted to Justice Minister Michael McDowell and there have even been calls for a public inquiry into the matter.

Love Ulster protestors, who numbered up to 700 and included bandsmen, were hemmed into a corner of Parnell Square and not permitted to march up O'Connell Street to the Irish parliament.

A later attempt by loyalists to demonstrate nearby also saw further disturbances in Nassau Street and there was also rioting in the Jervis Shopping Centre close to O'Connell Street.

The trouble broke out after Republican Sinn Fein, which supports dissident republicans, held a counter-demonstration in O'Connell Street.

Mr Frazer, who heads the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) group based in Co Armagh, said no decision had been taken on whether to reschedule the march.

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