A UVF parade scheduled to wind its way along the Donegall Road next Saturday has been cancelled over fears it could re-ignite the loyalist feud.
The South Belfast Volunteers were due to march through Sandy Row and the Village – two UDA strongholds – on June 7.
But with tensions between the organisations in the east of the city at breaking point, and rank and file loyalists fearful these hostilities could spill into South Belfast, the parade has been axed. One UDA source said band organisers had made the right choice.
“This march had the potential to cause serious trouble,” said the loyalist insider. “A lot of people will be breathing a sigh of relief now it’s been cancelled.
“Things aren’t good between the organisations at the minute – there is a lot of bad blood in East Belfast. The UVF’s only real South Belfast stronghold is Donegall Pass but the area is in disarray with local leaders in jail.
“The UDA’s concern was that during the parade a UVF member, with designs on taking control of the Pass, could start throwing his weight about on our turf. If that happened the feud could kick off again.”Relations between the UVF and UDA in the south of the city have been fraught since UDA members from Sandy Row attacked a parade passing through Shaftesbury Square in the summer of 2001.
Rival loyalist paramilitaries battled each other in the full glare of PSNI CCTV cameras with pikes, flags, bricks and bottles. And although relations have improved slightly old wounds have yet to heal.
Speaking yesterday (Thursday), PUP Castlereagh councillor Tommy Sandford admitted UVF/UDA tensions did contribute to the parade cancellation.
“There are sensitivities at the moment but we are working hard to clear them up,” he said.
“During tense situations you can find individuals trying to perpetuate these feelings. But we are determined not to let that happen.”
Next week’s South Belfast Volunteer parade was the first in a series of UVF marches scheduled for the summer.
Other paramilitary parades that will go ahead include the Regimental Band of the UVF’s march along the Ravenhill Road on June 14.
This will be followed by the UVF’s Sandy Row Somme commemorations at the beginning of July. And as a climax to the marching season the Donegall Pass based South Belfast Young Conquerors and other UVF-aligned bands will gather in the area on July 26 for their annual band competition.