Thousands at UVF march in Belfast

Thousands at UVF march in Belfast

Up to 10,000 loyalists have taken part in a parade through Belfast to mark the centenary of the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Supporters lined the streets as the procession set off along the Ravenhill Road from 11am on Saturday.

As many as 40 bands were involved. Marchers wore period costumes and some carried replica weapons.

The event stayed clear of sectarian flashpoints and police maintained a low-key presence throughout the day.

It passed off without incident.

Organisers said that the emphasis was firmly on marking the events of 1913, insisting there was no link with modern-day paramilitaries.

Billy Hutchinson, PUP leader, said: "There is no matter of UDA, UVF in terms of on show; they wore totally different uniforms than they would have worn then and would have fired real guns and fired shots.

"The modern UVF have moved on, moved off the stage in that way."

However there had been controversy in the lead up to the parade when hundreds of UVF flags were erected along the route last weekend.

Some local residents raised concerns - police said the flags are not related to a proscribed organisation and offered to meet local community groups.

The parade is being staged to mark the founding of the old UVF 100 years ago to fight Home Rule - many members later fought in the First World War at the Somme. The present day paramilitary group of the same name was formed more than half a century later.

Saturday's events culminated in a gathering in the grounds of Craigavon House.

The venue was picked because it was where the plans for the original UVF were drawn up 100 years ago.

Crowds were addressed by the great granddaughter of Sir James Craig.

A minute's silence was held for volunteers who had died over the last century.


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