Belfast Telegraph

Call for council action over Belfast dissident rally

Permission not given to use park in west Belfast

By Claire McNeilly

Dissident republicans are planning to use a park in west Belfast for a rally - even though they haven't been given permission from Belfast City Council to do so.

The organisers of a planned republican anti-internment parade - the Anti-Internment League - have scheduled a march from Ardoyne into the city centre and then on to Dunville Park this Sunday.

But an Ulster Unionist councillor has hit out at plans to host a subsequent rally in the Falls Road park, after the group failed to obtain the permission required from the council which owns the facility.

A Belfast City Council spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph that it has "received no request for use of Dunville Park this weekend", despite the rally being widely publicised on social media and via posters and leaflets.

Ex-High Sheriff of Belfast Jim Rodgers said the move flies in the face of council protocol and "yet again shows a blatant disregard for the procedures that other organisations are told they must follow".

"I am calling on the council to take appropriate action - even at this late stage," he said. "They must be notified and told that they can't use Dunville Park for this rally on Sunday. I don't care who it is - people must adhere to rules and regulations. Every other organisation has to go through the process of applying to the council and that includes providing a 24-point plan which has public liability insurance in it."

Mr Rodgers said that similar rallies had been held in previous years, resulting in "some costly vandalism".

"It is the job of the City Fathers to make sure we are getting money in rather than allowing people to rake around and destroy our parks and our city," he said. "Any injury or damage that ensues from this rally will come at a cost to the public purse. That's not what we want to be spending money on."

Organisers believe up to 5,000 people will take part in the march on Sunday.

A loyalist parade organised by the Loyal People's Protest is also planned for the city centre at the same time. The group has in the past held protests during republican parades through the city, including the now annual anti-internment march. Both parades have been listed by the Parades Commission as sensitive.

Meanwhile, an 'anti-terrorism' rally involving members of a controversial far-right group is also due to take place close to the planned republican anti-internment parade.

Leading figures from Britain First are among those expected to take part in the City Hall event jointly organised by independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting. Those set to travel to Belfast for the 'Northern Ireland Against Terrorism' rally include Britain First leader and former BNP councillor Paul Golding.

Anti-Internment League spokesman Dee Fennell said he believes "it is no coincidence" that the rally and loyalist parade have been planned at the same time as the republican march.

He expressed concern at the possibility of a "perverse situation where republicans marching on a human rights issue will be banned" while far-right leaders are "seemingly able to travel to Belfast from Britain and have a free rein".

He added that parade organisers have voluntarily agreed to start earlier and have reduced the number of bands taking part to five.

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