'Thousands to protest against loyalist collusion'

Thousands of republicans were expected to converge on Belfast City Hall today for a rally against collusion.

Thousands of republicans were expected to converge on Belfast City Hall today for a rally against collusion.

The crowd will be addressed by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Adams claimed the security forces’ policy of colluding with loyalists remained intact.

“Collusion involves the sharing of information, weapons and membership between the British military and intelligence networks and unionist paramilitaries.

“To improve efficiency, British military intelligence reorganised and rearmed unionist murder gangs in the 1980s. Hundreds were killed and many more injured and maimed in a campaign of state sponsored murder,” he added.

The Sinn Féin President added the truth about the role of the Government and its agencies in colluding with loyalists was long overdue.

“The families of those who died as a result of a collusion policy have a right to the truth and in their pursuit of the truth deserve the support of the wider community.”

A few hours before the rally was due to begin a small group of loyalists held a token protest outside Belfast City Hall.

They were led by David Ervine leader of the Progressive Unionist Party which has links with the Ulster Volunteer Force, and his colleague former MLA Billy Hutchinson.

The group held placards depicting Gerry Adams with his hand held over his ears pleading not to be asked about IRA atrocities such as the bombing of Enniskillen and the La Mon Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast.

Mr Ervine branded Sinn Féin as hypocrites for ignoring the murders carried out by republicans.

“Here we have a quiet summer and they are bringing people onto the streets. This is about justifying their war while giving no other combatants any respect or dignity.”

The PUP leader said that Sinn Féin demanded enquiries into allegations of collusion by the British forces but ignored claims that the Government and the Catholic Church colluded in the formation of the Provisional IRA..

The protesters planned to leave before hundreds of republicans arrived at the City Hall.

“It is not about wanting to fight or having a row it is about saying how hypocritical these people are,” said Mr Ervine.

More in this section