SF to Protest British Army

Sinn Fein's plan to protest against a British Army "homecoming" parade is threatening efforts to restore the power-sharing Executive at Stormont, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson has warned.

On Sunday Sinn Fein will stage a protest in Belfast city center against a homecoming parade to mark the return of British Army troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. At least two other city center protests will be staged by other Republican groups, Eirigi and the Republican Network for Unity (RNU).

However, Robinson has claimed that attempts to restore the Stormont Executive are being endangered by Sinn Fein's planned protest against the British Army parade.

"I think it is hard for people to envisage how we can devolve powers for policing and justice, when one of the parties in the Assembly behaves in such a reckless way as Sinn Fein are proposing to do," he said.

"And it indicates that there are people certainly within Sinn Fein, who have not pulled themselves into the new era ... who aren't prepared to allow people from our community, who have put their lives in harm's way and thankfully are coming back, and are able to parade in Northern Ireland.

"I just believe that people in Northern Ireland believed that we had moved away from this kind of tit-for-tat parading where a deliberate attempt was being made to run a counter parade and protest in order to disrupt the activities of the army, in order to intimidate and to provoke.

"And I just don't think that in the new society that we are trying to create in Northern Ireland that was a sensible step to take, and I don't think it can be justified."

Robinson revealed that he had discussed the issue with Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, but with no agreement between the two sides warned of a potential for violence.

"Bringing large numbers of people into the center of Belfast where undoubtedly there will be thousands of people coming to welcome home our troops is a recipe for disaster," Robinson said.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the British Army parade was offensive to victims of state violence, and accused Robinson of making excuses for the political stalemate.

"Hundreds of families who have lost loved ones directly or through collusion between the British army and Loyalists still have many unanswered questions," he said.

"There have been hundreds of thousands of people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and undoubtedly many families there will be asking exactly the same questions. The attempt to glorify British crown forces in the center of Belfast is an affront to victims across this island.

"Peter Robinson needs to stop grasping for excuses not to make progress."

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