The parade going through the streets of Markethill on Easter Monday.
UNIONIST politicians have accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy over their condemnation of a parade held in Markethill yesterday evening.
It is thought that the parade was held in protest over the handling of the Bobby Storey funeral, as well as the furore over the NI Protocol.
Earlier today Sinn Fein Cusher councillor Bróna Haughey said the appearance of “masked loyalists” in Markethill was “consistent with several other displays of intimidation” in Northern Ireland over recent days.
She added that they were a deliberate attempt at trying to stoke tensions.
Cllr Haughey said: Haughey said: “Irresponsible and reckless rhetoric from unionist politicians has seen tensions rise right across the protestant, unionist, loyalist community.
“I would appeal for calm and I call on those in positions of influence in political unionism both locally and across the North to demonstrate more measured and responsible leadership before tensions boil over and become out of control.”
That has prompted Armagh Ulster Unionist councillor, Sam Nicolson, to describe Sinn Fein's response as “arrogant to say the least”.
He told the Ulster Gazette: “I have read much over social media regarding the protests which have occurred at various locations in Northern Ireland yesterday including Portadown and Markethill here locally.
“In my opinion these are a manifestation of the genuine and real frustrations that has been building within the Unionist community over the current political situation.
“The hypocrisy of Sinn Féin over the past 24 hours regarding these protests is arrogant to say the least when you consider that party’s blatant disregard to the COVID regulations at the Bobby Storey funeral.
“There is no doubt in my mind the decision not to prosecute did great damage to the public confidence in the PPS, the local justice system and the PSNI leadership. In any democratic society that purports to operate within the rule of law, the law must apply equally to everyone without exception. Nobody in this society can be off-limits in any investigation, whether they be the President of Sinn Fein or anyone-else.”
Cllr Nicholson said he defended anyone's right to protest, adding that he understood the frustrations being felt in the unionist community.
However, he urged those involved “to take a step back and rethink their strategy considering that we are still in the middle of a health pandemic”.
He added: “I do not want to see us repeat the mistakes of the past and I do not want to see young people getting criminal records because of their actions.
“Others seem to be happy to flaunt and ignore the current regulations, but we as loyalists and unionists cannot be seen as law-breakers and frankly take the focus off Sinn Féin and the republican movement. It was that party that broke the law and should be held accountable for their actions and their leaders should consider their position because their actions has helped lead to this.”Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA said that the fall out over the Bobby Storey funeral was “very clearly” still being manifested out in the wider loyalist community.
He stated, “This is very clearly the outworkings of deeply held frustration in the loyalist community and this flows from the very different treatment of Republicans by the Police and the PPS, compared with for instance, a family traveling a distance for a stroll on the beach and in so doing receiving a fine.”
He added, “This differential and indeed what may believe to be preferential treatment is very obviously the basis for these protest style parades. On a wider theme it is a concern that respect for rule of law has been so severely damaged by the double standards of the Police in the facilitation of a massive funeral for an IRA terrorist.”
He concluded, “I am a law abiding citizen and I encourage people to vent their frustrations peacefully and through the democratic processes available. It is clear that those senior Sinn Fein members involved in the Bobby Storey funeral should be considering their positions as indeed should senior PSNI figures who also facilitated this huge funeral event.”