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Mayor hits out at 'scum' behind protest

A REPUBLICAN protest is planned for Saturday's civic event to mark the return of 38 Engineers to the borough.

High-level security will be in place in the town on Saturday as troops from the regiment march from a civic event at Antrim Foroum to their barracks on the Randalstown Road.

Eirigi spokesman Eamann MacManais said: "We have been consistent in our peaceful protests against the army even though the barriers against the protests have been quite forthright and quite stringent.

"We in Eirigi have actively opposed the homecoming parade, which we see as a cover, a way of normalisation of the British Army's presence in the six counties and their presence in other areas throughout the world.

"The British troops still aren't welcome here in Ireland. There's 5,000 troops here in the north of Ireland who are not welcome and any attempt to normalise the British army's presence here or throughout the world is cynical and is being opposed by Eirigi."

Colin Duffy was among the frontline republicans in Eirigi's protest at the homecoming parade through Belfast city centre last year.

The 41-year-old was charged with the murder of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar.

It is understood that the families of the two murdered soldiers will be attending the event.

Mayor of Antrim, Councillor Adrian Watson, said that he was disgusted by the planned republican protest saying protestors were "doing nothing more than dancing on the graves of the murdered soldiers".

"These people are completely out of order coming all the way to Antrim on a Saturday morning to be offended," Cllr. Watson said.

He added: "Nobody wants these scum in Antrim; nobody wants them at this parade.

"I would urge as many local people as possible to turn up and support the men and women of this regiment on Saturday."

Antrim DUP Councillor Pam Lewis has also strongly criticised the dissident republican threat raised against the British Army's parade through Antrim town this weekend.

In a strong condemnation of the republican threats to oppose and disrupt the parade, the DUP councillor described the dissidents as "peddlers of 'old-style' republican violence and unrest" and accused them of being "little more than fascist in their ideology and approach".

"We've seen these tactics time and time again with republicans of one hue or another pouring onto the streets to oppose British or Unionist celebrations. So much for tolerance, the word does not exist in the dissident vocabulary, and won't as long as they maintain their 'Brits Out' harangue," Cllr. Lewis said.

Cllr. Lewis also called for positive and responsible policing of the parade to ensure the people who wanted to would be able to support the regiment complete their return parade. She also demanded a positive endorsement from Sinn Fein for tolerance to discourage unrest and intimidation from spoiling the parade.

"This is a key time for Sinn Fein republicanism to show, if it can, that it has moved from its 'Brit-hating mentality'," Cllr. Lewis said.

She added: "Sinn Fein leaders cannot simply demand the transfer of policing and justice to the Assembly while fiddling like Nero while the dissidents burn any credibility Sinn Fein has to manage their community. They must know that while dissident republicans escalate their violence there will be little likelihood of any transfer of powers."

Councillor Lewis said that there needed to be a strong rejection of dissidents from within the republican community so that the unionist community wasn't left asking whether the republican leopard could never change its spots.

"I welcome the opportunity to celebrate the return of this regiment to Antrim, it has served with distinction and has paid the price none of us would want to pay. This is a time to be proud and joyful."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Antrim Council have graciously invited members of 38 Regiment to the civic Forum to mark their return following the widespread cross-community outcry after the murders of the young sappers.

"The 38 Regiment are part of the Corps of Engineers, who were given the Freedom of the Borough of Antrim in the eighties, so they will move back to barracks for the medal parade, not as a homecoming parade but as exercising as Freemen of the Borough, so this is not a triumphalist parade by any stretch of the imagination."

Police have advised motorists travelling in the Antrim area that they should expect traffic delays around the town on Saturday. Traffic will be disrupted from 10am onwards.

The parade is expected to leave Antrim Forum at 11.30am and make its way along the Dublin Road/Randalstown Road.

 
 
 

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