The Love Ulster Organising Committee has expressed its sincere thanks to all who supported the first Love Ulster parade and rally. The organisers were delighted with the turn out, with between 13,000 and 14,000 people coming to the Shankill Road on Saturday either to walk in the parade or to watch it.
Among those participating were victims relatives and victims groups from around Northern Ireland, community groups, women's groups, bands, politicians and the Orange Order.
A Love Ulster spokesperson said, "Despite the atrocious weather conditions it was hugely encouraging to see such large numbers turning out for the parade. Many from around the province were visiting the Shankill for the first time. "We know that many of the victims' relatives were deeply moved by the strong support shown to them as they were applauded the whole way up the Shankill and Woodvale Roads by the crowds which lined the route.
"When the top of the parade was entering Woodvale Park, the end of the parade was only leaving from Northumberland Street, a continuous parade of over one and a half miles and the longest parade on the Shankill for many years. "There was also strong support from the Orange Order and some 30 bands from around the province."
People travelled from across Northern Ireland, from England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland to participate in the event. Some 3,500 people remained for the duration of the speeches at Woodvale Park
The rally was addressed by John MacVicar of the Love Ulster committee, Belfast County Grand Master Dawson Bailie, Willie Fraser of victims' group FAIR, Jean Barnes of Women Raising Unionist Concerns, Thomas McDonald Senior whose son was killed in a sectarian attack, and Rev Mervyn Gibson.
The Love Ulster spokesperson continued, "It was an excellent turn-out, despite the very wet and windy conditions, despite buses being cancelled for several groups and bands, and despite the scare-mongering by nationalist politicians, the security forces and elements within the media.
"This was a peaceful and democratic event in support of unity of purpose within the Unionist family. It also sent a strong message to Peter Hain and Tony Blair that the Unionist people will not be treated as second class citizens within the political process.
"We consider this to have been an excellent start. This campaign will continue to grow and grow. We have received requests to hold further rallies in other venues around the province, and in Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Dublin. We will be actively pursuing all these options.
"We will continue to pursue a 'people's agenda', to encourage and enable unionist people to stand up and be counted and to make their voice heard."
HELP US TELL THE TRUTH