UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has appealed to organisers to call off this Saturday’s flag protest in Belfast city centre.
A parade has been organised for Saturday to mark the murders of two Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers who were killed by an IRA bomb in 1988.
Mr Nesbitt said nothing should deflect from marking “the memory of two brave citizens”.
James Cummings and Fred Starrett were killed on February 24,1998 in an IRA bomb attack in Royal Avenue.
A 200 lb remote control bomb, hidden behind construction hoardings, was detonated the as the two UDR soldiers manned a security gate in Royal Avenue.
Mr Nesbitt said: “I understand over 1,000 people will take part in the parade to commemorate James and Fred who were members of the Ulster Defence Regiment deployed to protect the building site that was to become Castlecourt Shopping Centre.
“Given the cost of the flags protests, it would be regrettable if those involved did not take the opportunity to step back to allow the media to highlight how republicans once stopped at nothing to pursue their economic war against Northern Ireland, irrespective of the cost in terms of human lives or impact on the economy,” he said.
“The cost of the current protests cannot be justified, but are as nothing to the equally unjustifiable cost of the Troubles.”
Mr Nesbitt also made an appeal to the organisers of the weekly flag protests.
“I appeal to people like Jamie Bryson to use their influence to call off Saturday’s protest and leave the streets clear for the parade in commemoration of Privates Cummings and Starrett.
“I further call, as I have since the first week of December last, for the flags protests to move off the streets.
“It is clear to all that the issues go far beyond the union flag, and I repeat my invitation to Mr Bryson and his colleagues to engage with the Unionist Forum, which offers an unique opportunity to air their grievances with the realistic hope of redress.”