Parachute Regiment veterans in Scotland have spoken out about their regiment’s coveted maroon beret and flags being misappropriated and used by football fans and Orange Lodge band marchers to incite sectarian hatred and violence in the build-up to the “Soldier F” Bloody Sunday murder trial in December.
“Soldier F” – a former Parachute Regiment soldier, faces two counts of murder and five of attempted murder following Bloody Sunday on 30 January, 1972, when members of the regiment fired on unarmed civil rights marchers in the Bogside, a predominantly Catholic part of Londonderry. Thirteen people were killed.
Flags with the regiment’s insignia and the words “We Support Soldier F” have been waved at football matches, draped over sidelines and hung from pub flagpoles.
Band members on Orange Lodge marches in Scotland have also been spotted wearing Para berets.
A range of Parachute Regiment items can be bought online from sites such as The Airborne Shop, which helps the Support Our Paras charity, and from the Parachute Regimental shop. A beret costs £13.99, flags £22 and cap badges £5.99.
A Para Regiment veteran, who did want to be named, said: “I was at the last Old Firm game at Ibrox in September and saw people waving Para Flags with ‘F’s n them.
“These fans are saying ‘the Paras shot the Catholics on Bloody Sunday and we’re going to defend the soldiers’. Glasgow was full of Para flags that weekend.
“They are using our flag and wearing the berets to say ‘this is what we did to you in 1972 and don’t you forget it’.
“The Orange Order has been getting involved and pushing it further and further.”
In August the Apprentice Boys of Derry said they recognised the potential upset caused to nationalists after Parachute Regiment emblems and the letter “F” were worn by members of a visiting flute band at a parade in Londonderry.
Another Para veteran said: “The Parachute Regiment is in a bad enough place at the moment without these people appropriating our name and making out they represent us. They do not. Our emblems are being used to incite violence and frighten Catholics.”
Dave Scott, director of Nil By Mouth, Scotland’s leading anti-sectarian charity, said: “Sadly, we too often see fans at Scottish football matches bring flags, emblems and banners into grounds which have nothing to do with sport and everything too with antagonising others.
“This is particularly the case with symbols of deep resonance across the Irish Sea.
“It’s become a form of cultural voyeurism as I’d doubt any of those involved have any real experiences of the realities of that time.
“As someone who grew up in Country Antrim I’ve always felt anyone who is in some way nostalgic for the Troubles clearly wasn’t there.
“I’m not surprised those who have participated or have born witness to these events are aghast that people with very little, if indeed any real knowledge of the complexities and emotions involved treat these symbols as little more than a red rag to a bull – a method of inflaming tensions or provoking responses from others.”
A Scottish Professional Football League spokesman said they were unaware of such incidents including at the last Old Firm games.
Edward Hyde, grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said: “I’m not aware of any of our members wearing such regalia.”