Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Parades: Police union boss calls for ban on contentious marches following Belfast violence

Terry Spence wants a six-month ban on contentious Orange Order and republican marches

The head of the Police Federation has called for a ban on all contentious parades in Northern Ireland in order to avoid similar violent scenes to those witnessed in Belfast city centre on Friday which left dozens of officers injured.

Terry Spence - whose organisation represents some 7,000 members - said the current situation could not continue, with some 500 officers having been injured since last summer.

He has now called for a "six-month moratorium" on contentious parades - including Orange Order and republican marches.

"We are appealing to all of our politicians to work together to resolve this issue, and certainly in the interim period until such time as the (former) envoy to the United States, Richard Haass completes his talks," he said.

"We are calling on the Secretary of State...to call upon the five leaders of the main political parties, and for her to persuade them that they must insist on loyal orders and republican organisations, and other protesters, that there must be a moratorium on all of these contentious parades and protests for six months to give all of us a breathing space so we can move forward."

Speaking on the Nolan Show on Monday morning he described the violence witnessed in Belfast city centre - in which a loyalist mob attacked police - as a "totally and absolute disgrace".

Mr Spence said the PSNI needed "at least another 1000 officers".

His comments follow two contentious parades over the weekend as well as several nights of serious rioting across Belfast last month.

A total of officers were injured during loyalist riots in Belfast city centre during a night of chaos on Friday.

A massive police presence at Royal Avenue stood only metres away from hundreds of loyalist protesters - the crowd blocking a planned dissident republican parade route through the heart of the city.

The republican rally - marking 42 years since the introduction of internment in 1973 -  had been held a short distance away during heavy rioting before passing through the city centre's main arterial route some time later.

More than a thousand loyalist demonstrators had gathered to protest - with the ensuring violence leaving four officers requiring hospital treatment.

Police deployed water canon and fired 26 plastic baton rounds in a bid to quell the unrest.

A number of people were arrested following the trouble with police warning many more will follow.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott described the violent scenes as mindless anarchy.

"I know that 99%, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night," he said.

"Those people had no intention of peaceful protest, they lack self respect and they lack dignity."

He warned that the "prisons would be bulging" once the police had identified and arrested those responsible.

Meanwhile a controversial republican parade in honour of members of the IRA passed off peacefully on Sunday in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

A Protestant counter-demonstration was kept separate from the republican marchers by a strong force of police, so that protests were confined to shouts and the waving of banners.

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