Northern Ireland

UVF 'behind loyalist protest parade' says Martin McGuinness

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Media captionMartin McGuinness said he believed the UVF was behind a parade planned for Belfast on Saturday

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he believes the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is behind a loyalist protest parade planned for Belfast city centre on Saturday.

Answering questions in the NI Assembly, Mr McGuinness said he thought the protesters already made their point.

"I don't have any doubt as to who's organising this parade, this parade is being organised by the UVF.

"And it is being supported by elements within the Orange Order," he said.

He said the media were getting "exercised" over who was organising the march.

First anniversary

Mr McGuinness said there was a clear responsibility on the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) to recognise the damage that could be done if such protests continued.

The PUP has links to the loyalist paramilitary group the UVF.

The deputy first minister told the assembly on Tuesday that there was a duty to face up to the concerns being expressed by Belfast's business community about the potential economic damage that could be caused by further protests.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said Mr McGuinness's remarks were an attempt to "deflect attention from terrorist activity being organised from within the republican community".

"The peaceful protest on Saturday is about demonstrating the injustices working class Protestants are experiencing at the moment, including the demonisation of their culture and tradition," he said.

"The protest is legitimate and lawful and will also highlight the other issues that are impacting on working class Protestant communities, including increasing poverty."

A spokesman for the Orange Order said: "The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has not been involved in the organisation of Saturday's parade.

"If Mr McGuinness has any information about membership of loyalist or republican paramilitary groups then he should pass it to the PSNI."

Loyalists are planning to mark the first anniversary of the flags protest with a demonstration at Belfast's City Hall on 30 November.

The parade is being held days before the first anniversary of Belfast council's decision to restrict flying of the union flag to designated days.

Following the council's decision in December 2012, there were regular protests and some disturbances in the city and throughout Northern Ireland for a number of weeks.

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