Belfast Telegraph

Call for protesters to 'see sense' over march

By Dave Whelan

Politicians are appealing to local people not to allow tension at a loyalist parade in north Belfast last weekend to spill over into this weekend's city centre protest.

On Saturday, there were minor scuffles on the Crumlin Road when protesters were blocked by police from passing nationalist homes in Ardoyne.

Organisers the Civil Rights Camp had applied for permission to bring 5,000 loyalists past the interface and were joined by around 500 weekly marchers from the Ligoniel Combine on the Shankill Road.

The march, organised in support of Orangemen prevented from marching the route on July 12, was blocked as it made its way from the Ballysillan Road towards Twaddell Avenue.

Police were verbally abused after holding back an elderly man who attempted to pass police lines. Following the minor trouble SDLP MLA Alban Maginness called on organisers to "see sense" and call off protests in the run up to Christmas.

This weekend up to 10,000 people and 40 bands are expected to march through Belfast city centre on one of the busiest trading days of the calendar year, to mark the anniversary of the decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag at City Hall.

Permission for the march was granted by the Parades Commission following representations from traders in Belfast city centre, and from the hospitality and tourism industries, although there is anger amongst organisers at time restrictions imposed.

The original application had proposed the parade move off from City Hall at 2pm and be clear of the city centre by 2.30pm, although the Commission's ruling has stated that it must now be clear of City Hall by noon, and should have passed the junction of Royal Avenue and North Street by 12.30pm with "no undue stoppages or delays".

However, a parade organised by the same group in September breached a Parades Commission ruling by leaving the front of the City Hall later than required.

A second parade is understood to be leaving the city hall at 2pm to Tennent Street.

On Monday First Minister Peter Robinson appealed for those taking part to minimise the impact on traders.

He told the BBC: "It is a legitimate right of people to protest... but I ask them to have their protest in a way that does the least possible damage to the traders of Belfast."

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