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Chaos fears as dissidents vow to flout Belfast parade ruling

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 03/08/2015

Police were caught in violence between paraders and protesters in 2013
Police were caught in violence between paraders and protesters in 2013
Police were caught in violence between paraders and protesters in 2013
Police were caught in violence between paraders and protesters in 2013
Damien 'Dee' Fennell

Fears are growing that a dissident republican parade in Belfast city centre could descend into violence after organisers vowed to defy a Parades Commission ruling.

An anti-internment parade has been given permission to go ahead next Sunday, but a determination by the body states it must conclude by no later than 1.30pm.

However, the organisers, The Anti-Internment League, have stated that they will ignore the ruling and head towards Royal Avenue at 2.30pm.

The league told the Parades Commission in its application that it expected 5,000 participants and supporters to attend the march.

Hundreds of loyalist protesters are also expected to mount a counter-demonstration against the republican rally to mark the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles.

However, politicians have spoken of their fears that the parade - which will pass through the city centre at peak shopping time on August 9 - could spark violence on the streets.

And concerns have also been raised that the police will be "stretched to the limit" to man the security operation.

In 2013, more than 50 PSNI officers were injured after violence erupted in Royal Avenue and property was damaged in the city centre when loyalists protesters attacked the police during the same parade.

The determination by the Parades Commission, published on Friday, read: "The parade and its entirety shall have passed the Divis Street/Milfield junction on its notified route no later than 1.30pm. No supporters shall accompany the parade between the junction of North Queen Street and Donegall Street and Royal Avenue."

But responding to the decision, a statement posted on the Anti-Internment League social media site read: "We will assemble in Ardoyne Avenue at 2pm, departing at 2.30pm from Ardoyne Avenue to Dunville Park via the city centre.

"The Anti-Internment League ask all republicans, nationalists and human rights advocates to join with us in opposing internment by remand, by revocation of licence and through miscarriage of justice, by assembling at Ardoyne Avenue at 2pm on Sunday, August 9."

Members of the league include prominent dissident republican Damien 'Dee' Fennell, who is currently facing charges of encouraging terrorism and who has been banned from making any speeches in public.

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers appealed for order, warning that any violent disorder would tarnish the city's image.

"I would be really very concerned there could be serious public disorder - it could be chaos," he said.

"The police, now including tactical support groups, will be stretched to the limit. What is so concerning is that it (the parade) is during peak shopping hours in Sunday in Belfast. I think these people are being irresponsible. They have been given the go-ahead, but at this stage they are openly defying the time that they are allowed to go through the city centre.

"It is quite clear there will also be a loyalist protest on the streets. I would appeal for people to behave in a proper manner so we don't witness a repeat of the violence we have seen in previous years on the streets of Belfast."

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