In March 2006 a Love Ulster march took place in Dublin. It resulted in violence on the streets of the capital, with fourteen people being hospitalised and significant damage being done to property in O’Connell Street and the surrounding areas.
That Love Ulster march was organised, in part, by Willie Frazer, a prominent loyalist from Northern Ireland. At the end of last year the same Willie Frazer announced that he was planning another Love Ulster march in Dublin later this year. He is planning it for next month. This is a really bad idea and will most likely result in further violence on the streets of Dublin, causing injuries and damage.
The 2006 Love Ulster march damaged the reputation of Dublin as a peaceful city and left the city and state with a large policing and clean up bill. It is dangerous and inappropriate for Dublin to be again faced with the prospect of further violence and damage because of the wish of Willie Frazer to organise this unnecessary and provocative march.
It appears that this march is being planned because of Willie Frazer’s upset at the decision of the Irish government to re-visit the “hooded men case” taken by Ireland against the British government before the European Court of Human Rights in the 1970s. The court in that case concluded that the treatment of IRA suspects in British custody in the early 1970s was inhumane and degrading but did not constitute torture.
The question as to whether or not this judgement was right or wrong is a matter to be determined by the European Court of Human Rights. It is completely provocative of Willie Frazer to organise a march in Dublin simply because the Irish Government has correctly exercised its entitlement to re-open a previous decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
It should also be recalled that in January 2003 Willie Frazer was refused an application for a firearm by the Chief Inspector at the Firearms Licensing Branch of the PSNI on grounds that he was unfit to be in possession of that firearm and that he was not a person to be entrusted with a firearm. Subsequently, this was challenged by Willie Frazer but he was informed by the Northern Ireland Office that his Firearms Certificate had been revoked because of reliable intelligence suggesting that Willie Frazer associated with loyalist terrorist organisations.
Although Willie Frazer subsequently denied that he had any links with any paramilitary movement his appeal against the revocation of his Firearms Licence was refused by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in June 2003. He challenged that decision in the Northern Ireland High Court but on 27 October 2004 that Court upheld the decision and said it was satisfied that the Secretary of State was entitled to conclude that Mr. Frazer was unfit to hold a Firearms Certificate by reason of the police intelligence concerning his paramilitary associations.
When one considers these factors and the violence associated with the 2006 Love Ulster march, it is clearly the case that there is a significant risk of violence should the proposed march proceed in Dublin in the Spring of this year. For that reason I have put a motion before next Monday’s Dublin City Council meeting seeking to get the support of Dublin City Council in opposing the proposed march because of the threat it poses and the waste of valuable Garda resources that is likely to occur if the march proceeds.
Obviously a vote of the City Council cannot stop the march but if Willie Frazer is interested in preserving the peace then he should call off his march and manifest his love for Ulster in other ways.
Jim O’Callaghan is a Dublin City Councillor and Legal Advisor to the Fianna Fáil Frontbench.