Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Church enters forces' parade row

Dr Donald Patton
Dr Donald Patton said a Sinn Féin protest would be "unhelpful"

Sinn Féin's protest against the armed forces' homecoming parade on Sunday is "unhelpful", the moderator of the Presbyterian Church has said.

In a letter to party president Gerry Adams, Dr Donald Patton said the spirit of the parade was one of "thanksgiving" rather than "triumphalism".

In a statement, Mr Adams said: "The history of the British Army in Ireland was one of great cruelty and hurt."

He added that the protest would be "peaceful and dignified".

Dr Patton said both Catholic and Protestant personnel from both sides of the border had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Such an example of cooperation is to be welcomed in this divided land of ours," said the Presbyterian leader.

On Monday, First Minister Peter Robinson said the Parades Commission's decision to allow the Sinn Féin parade was a "recipe for disaster".

Last week, the commission said it wanted to accommodate the homecoming parade and "a legitimate protest in a way which ensures that peace is maintained".

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