UPRG: more 'dignified' loyalist protest marches to come

Following Thursday night's "spontaneous" loyalist protest march in the city's Waterside, the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) has issued a scathing attack on mainstream unionism and what they describe as the lack of support for loyalist communities from elected unionist representatives.

David Malcolm, spokesperson for the Derry and North Antrim Branch of the UPRG - which is linked to the UDA - described the march as 'silent and dignified' and said he didn't rule out further marches in future.

Mr. Malcolm said the march wasn't designed to "stoke up sectarian tensions."

He claimed that approximately 350-400 members marched through the area in protest at the 'vilification' of loyalism and a policing agenda, which the organisation says, is "set against" loyalist communities.

Police and Sinn Fein said that up to 150 people took part in the march.

The UPRG say working class loyalist communities have been disenfranchised, isolated and have received no benefits from the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Malcolm refuted suggestions that UDA personnel were present at the protest march. And, when asked about the presence of an alleged senior UDA figure known as 'The Mexican' at the protest, David Malcom said: "I never saw him."

The UPRG representative also hit back at claims from Sinn Fein that the loyalist protest was heading for the city's west bank via Craigavon Bridge. A Sinn Fein statement suggested the march had been dispersed at Spencer Road, but David Malcolm said the protest march remained within areas of the Waterside from which they draw support. He also said the march remained "silent and dignified."

Under parades legislation, 28 days notice to the PSNI is obligatory for all parades except funerals and Salvation Army processions. Confirming that no notice had been given, David Malcolm also did not rule out similar protests in the future. He said that providing notification of protest would afford sinister elements within republicanism the chance to attack the protests.

Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson described the loyalist march as a "sinister development."

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said that, according to police, those taking part in Thursday's march hadn't broken the law and they took action to ensure there was no breach of the peace at Craigavon Bridge.

"This is to be welcomed considering the fact tensions have been on the rise in the city over the past few weeks and months," he said.