Sinn Fein chief Martin McGuinness says Castlederg IRA parade will be 'dignified and lawful'

Sinn Fein chief Martin McGuinness says Castlederg IRA parade will be ‘dignified and lawful’

THE deputy first minister says that an IRA commemoration parade in Castlederg this Sunday will be will be “dignified and lawful”.

The Sinn Fein chief spoke out as angry unionists and families of IRA murder victims in Tyrone called for the parade to be called off, saying it “glorified” terrorism.

Mr McGuinness, the former MP for Mid-Ulster, said a protest against an Apprentice Boys feeder parade in Castlederg on Saturday has been halted in an effort to ease tensions.

The decision was made after meetings in Castlederg on Thursday night involving local republicans and Mr McGuinness.

However, the Tyrone Volunteers Parade will go ahead despite the opposition to it by the DUP, UUP, SDLP, a victims group and also the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said on Friday: “This is a genuine attempt to de-escalate tensions in the town.

“And it would be my hope that it contributes to a peaceful weekend in Castlederg.”

Mr McGuinness, who earlier this week said he had not been consulted about the parade, said people should “respect the right” of republicans in Tyrone in their act of remembrance on Sunday.

“I have tremendous sympathy for all victims of the conflict and there have been victims on all sides. There has been political manipulation.

“I don’t have any other reason to believe that Sunday will not be peaceful.

“It’s not a celebration. It’s an act of remembrance.”

Mr McGuinness was asked during an interview on BBC Radio Foyle why republicans could not cancel the parade on Sunday after taking the decision to call off the protest on Saturday.

“Sunday’s event is not a protest,” he said, adding that he would not be there on Sunday in person.

“I’m on holidays and I’m entitled to a break,” he said.

“Sinn Fein representatives will be there to make sure things pass over peacefully.”

However, unionists in the area are still angry the parade is still going ahead.

On Thursday, unionists and victims of IRA murders, the Derg Valley Victims Voice, met Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at Stormont Castle about the parade in Castlederg .

However, she said she couldn’t ban it as those legal powers were “restricted and narrowly defined”.

Ms Villiers said the “criteria set out in legislation that would enable me to intervene are not satisfied in this case”.

She said the Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade was “deeply insensitive” and was causing great distress to many victims of terrorism.

The Derg Valley Victims Voice was accompanied by unionist politicians during the meeting.

They had called on the secretary of state to ban the parade or at least condemn it.

They say it will glorify terrorism and traumatise families affected by IRA violence.

DUP MLA Arlene Foster accompanied members of the victims’ group to the meeting.

She said the parade was damaging community relations and was grossly offensive to the families of the 29 people who were murdered by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) in the Castlederg area.

Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff said Ms Villiers should stay out of parading issues.

The Parades Commission has re-routed the parade away from the town’s war memorial, but did not ban it.

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