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Belfast city hall lockdown after dissidents protest threat

By Suzanne Breen

The PSNI will mount a major security operation at Belfast City Hall tonight as dissident republicans gather to protest against a police officer addressing a meeting on cyber safety.

Heavily armed members of the Tactical Support Group (TSG) will surround the building before 5pm as other officers take up positions inside City Hall.

The protest has been organised by dissident republican party Saoradh, whose members are expected to try and gain access to the event, at which a police officer will address parents on how to better protect their children from online dangers including cyberbullying, sexting, social media risks, gaming and online grooming.

Advertising its protest, Saoradh said its supporters would be "attempting to gain entry to (the meeting) in order to highlight the PSNI's continuing psychological abuse of children via stop and searches, home invasions and threats to parents' lives".

It is understood that loyalist flag protesters plan to stage a counter-demonstration at City Hall.

Security arrangements were discussed at a meeting in Tennent Street PSNI station yesterday, attended by Belfast City Council's security manager, John Terrett.

An internal memo circulating around City Hall, which has been obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, said: "It is believed that both groups (republicans and loyalists) will initially make their way to the cobbled area outside the front gates.

"Both groups may then move to the back gate of City Hall. There will be a significant PSNI public order operation in place for these protests."

The memo continues: "Neighbourhood officers will be inside City Hall and TSG units will be in position in the vicinity of the building.

"Silver Control (police) will be overseeing the event.

"Additional Belfast City Council security will be deployed inside City Hall.

"The event is a ticket-only event, however it is not known if any members of the protest groups have obtained tickets - this, however, remains a possibility."

The memo states that all attending the meeting will be screened at the back gate and main staircase before being registered by event organisers at the Rotunda.

Around 230 people are expected at the meeting.

The memo states that the security operation will begin at 5pm and that the council's security team will "work closely with PSNI and organisers to ensure that the event passes off with the minimum disruption".

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