9-15 Bedford Street
30 July 2013
Tyrone Commemoration Committee
I write as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party to express my Party's grave concerns over the above proposed parade.
You are aware of an associated protest, which I understand will be led by the Derg Valley Victims' Voice, an organisation I have met in the past but with which I have no formal association. I leave it to them, as local experts to make their case on the ground.
What I wish to add is an overarching point which I direct to you, as Chair of an Arms Length Body sponsored by HM Government through the Northern Ireland Office.
This proposed Parade will commemorate the deaths of two individuals who were intent on achieving terrorist murder, but who died at their own hands: the facts are not in dispute. The issue is whether it is right for you, the Parades Commission, to do anything, by commission or omission that offers any endorsement, real or perceived, of terrorist activity.
Sinn Fein's website for the Castlederg area states the proposed Parade is "Tyrone Volunteers Day", a clear reference to the two men in question having been active members of the terrorist, and proscribed, organisation, the Provisional IRA.
The web further states:
Tyrone Volunteers Day .... remembers the 56 Volunteers of the IRA's Tyrone Brigade and three Sinn Féin activists .... who laid down their lives during the most recent phase of the struggle for Irish freedom.
It is a well recorded fact that the current leadership of Irish Republicanism, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, justified the terrorism of the PIRA by claiming the "conditions" of the time justified their violent reaction. The Ulster Unionist Party disagrees; we argue those conditions did not and indeed never do exist. Ours is an absolute position regarding terrorism, Sinn Fein's is not, and the great difficulty is that once you take the sort of qualified position adopted by Sinn Fein, you then open the door to a debate as to whether those "conditions" no longer exist, as Sinn Fein argue, or whether they still exist, as is argued by the so-called dissident republicans who remain wedded to terrorism and were responsible for another event that will be commemorated in August, the Omagh Bombing.
I urge the Commission not to do or say anything regarding the proposed Castlederg Parade that will be interpreted as endorsing past terrorism, as that will not only be an affront to the great majority of people in Northern Ireland, but also give succour to those engaged in contemporaneous terrorism.
As ever, I remain happy to discuss further.
Leader, Ulster Unionist Party