New group is aiming to address Unionist issues

A NEW group has been set up in Banbridge district in an effort to tackle issues within local unionist circles and find a solution to street protests.

A meeting was held recently by members of the Protestant Unionist and Loyalist community within the District of Banbridge with the purpose of sitting down as a group and listening to all different opinions and to see if the district could move forward as a united group.

Speaking about the new group Ulster Unionist Councillor Glenn Barr said, “This forum fully supports peaceful protest and condemns any form of violence. The group was attended by local political parties, members of the loyal orders, members from local bands, victims of Sinn Fein/IRA violence and other influential members of the PUL community from all backgrounds. Areas including Banbridge, Dromore, Donacloney, Gilford, Rathfriland and Moneyslane were all represented.”

Mr Barr said this forum has no political affiliation and does not support one party over another - “its main stated aim is Uniting Unionism”.

In a statement issued through Mr Barr the group said: “The legitimate symbol of British identity is the Union Flag which cements the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and never will be anything other than resolutely British. There is anger at the decision to stop flying the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall, their decision means that the flag of our country will only fly for just 4% of the year, which is a 96% erosion in our identity with the Union Flag being replaced by an empty flag pole. We have had enough drip feed of political venom from Sinn Fein.”

The statement said the decision taken to ratify a proposal to retain the name of a children’s playground after Raymond McCreesh has caused considerable hurt to the Unionist Community within Newry and Mourne District, which is also particularly distressing to all those families who lost loved ones at the hands of Republican terrorists in the local area.

The group said: “Imagine the uproar if Solitude Park was renamed after a loyalist paramilitary.

“Banbridge District PUL community will be engaging with all stake holders in the District and it is planned to hold meetings throughout the District to promote the group. We are United in our approach and want to encourage everyone in the PUL community to get involved.”

In the upcoming months there are so far two events planned, with more events happening thereafter. The first of these events is to be held on Thursday, January 31.

The statement said: “One of the main complaints we have received is that the Unionist parties are not engaging with the electorate. All Pro-Union Party’s have been invited to attend a meeting so that grass roots unionists can ask direct questions to them. This is not a closed event and is open to all. More information on time and venue will be released in the coming weeks.”

The second event is planned for Friday, March 15, in Banbridge town which will be in the form of a heritage and cultural rights march.

The group said: “This march will give everyone in the PUL community the opportunity to come out and promote their culture and to say we are proud of it and we won’t be embarrassed or ashamed into expressing it. Local bands will be invited to attend the event, again more information on this will be released at the earliest opportunity.”