Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 29 July 2015

PSNI comes under pressure to crack down on illegal parades

SDLP demands tougher action to tackle protests

By Amanda Poole

Published 29/01/2013 | 01:01

First Minister Peter Robinson is heckled on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast after his meeting with Church and community leaders
First Minister Peter Robinson is heckled on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast after his meeting with Church and community leaders
Willie Frazer and David Nicholl at a parade in Londonderry
Protesters during the march in Londonderry
Protesters during the march in Londonderry
Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A burned out car during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Police on patrol during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI officers in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest. A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Loyalist protesters block of the Newtownards Road Belfast where shots are reported to have been fired on Saturday January 5 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist Protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013. Ongoing protests and demonstrations continue at the removal of the Union flag from the city hall. The protest was largley peacfull with only minor skermishes.Picture Mark McCormick.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards after a Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Willie Frazer at loyalist protests near Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Willie Frazer talks to Sara Girvin as loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
SNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards t
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards road, Belfast January 5 2013
Castlereagh Street area of east Belfast following loyalist rioting January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police have been targeted by rioters
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Carrickfergus flag protest. January 2, 2013
Carrickfergus Flag Protest, January 2 2013.
Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been protesting since councillors in Belfast voted to limit the number of days they fly the Union flag
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Jackie McDonald has warned that loyalist protests cannot succeed in having the Union flag reinstated above Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalists block the Sandy Row area of Belfast as part of a mass protest over flags
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and First Minister Peter Robinson were among those holding talks about the Union flag dispute in Belfast
Loyalists protesting around the village area in south Belfast December 17 2012
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalists taking part in a protest over the restrictions of flying the Union flag protesting outside Belfast City Hall
Up to 1,000 people took part in the cross community Peace Gathering in Belfast city centre
Loyalists in Belfast have been protesting against a decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag will fly from City Hall
Protest outside the Alliance Party office in East Belfast belonging to Naomi Long, following the decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the union flag every day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 4, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Flag. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a flag protest
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall

The PSNI has been told to stop facilitating illegal parades after an eighth weekend in a row of flag-related disruption in Belfast city centre.

The police were on Sunday night coming under increasing pressure to take a stronger approach to loyalist marches that have repeatedly flouted strict parading laws.

With no end in sight for the now weekly Saturday afternoon march to and from Belfast City Hall — the SDLP’s Alban Maginness said the PSNI must take tougher action.

“People have tolerated the gross and repeated disruption of their lives by these flag protests, whether they are parades or obstruction of the highway.

“It is not good enough for the police to be facilitating such illegal activities. It’s time that came to an end,” Mr Maginness said.

Saturday’s march from east Belfast to the City Hall marked the eighth weekend such an illegal event has been held.

The event saw a number of skirmishes and one arrest but was largely without incident.

Not one of the Saturday marches has been notified to the Parades Commission.

SDLP justice spokesman Conall McDevitt said flag protesters’ failure to apply for commission permission puts the body in a difficult position.

He said the law may now need to be “strengthened and amended” by Westminster.

He said he was taken aback by the Chief Constable’s comments last week when he was speaking to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

Matt Baggott said the authority of the commission had been undermined by protests and he defended the PSNI’s response.

The commission and PSNI are currently exploring the legal options surrounding parades that have not sought notification.

A Parades Commission spokesman on Sunday night said: “The commission has been notified of 14 Union flag related parades to date. It has not, however, received any notifications regarding recent events taking place in Belfast on Saturdays.

“The remit of the commission extends to parades and parade-related protests only.

“The commission has no remit to consider protests generally.”

Mr McDevitt said: “It would be great if the commission was receiving applications for parades and the PSNI was not left in the middle making tough decisions.

“But when faced with illegal demonstrations the police must act in accordance with their duties and keep the roads open.”

Alliance Party justice spokesman, Stuart Dickson MLA, whose office was burnt out by loyalists, said: “It is entirely the responsibility of parade organisers to seek the relevant permissions.

On Saturday, First Minister Peter Robinson was heckled after he emerged from a meeting with community and Church leaders on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast. A small group tried to block his vehicle from leaving and hit it with a flagpole.

A DUP spokesman said further discussions will take place in the coming days.

“We are very aware of the impact on people's day-to-day activities and also on our business community,” he said.

“The police have responsibility for maintaining law and order, however we encourage those engaged in unlawful activities to channel their energies in a political path.”

Meanwhile, a 31-year-old man was due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday charged with resisting police, riot, assault on police and possession of a class B drug, following a protest in Newtownabbey on Saturday.

And a 42-year-old man arrested in east Belfast on Saturday is also expected to appear before Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with obstructing traffic in a public place, two charges of assault on police and three charges of resisting arrest.

Background

Hundreds of flag protests, parades and roadblocks have taken place across Northern Ireland since December 3, when Belfast City councillors voted in favour of flying the Union flag on designated days only. Since then, loyalists have taken to the streets in protest, although demonstrations have frequently turned violent. Businesses say they have been struggling as shoppers stay away.

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