Belfast Telegraph

PSNI defends parade route move

The PSNI has defended a decision to re-route a parade during a security alert.

Police said they allowed the loyalist band parade to proceed through Rasharkin, Co Antrim, along an agreed route in reverse amid fears for public safety.

The PSNI's Chief Inspector Ryan Henderson said despite the dedicated work by organisers and community leaders, irresponsible individuals intent on increasing tensions deliberately placed a suspicious object in the area.

"As the safety of everyone in the area was our first priority, the decision was taken that it was in the best interests of everyone to allow the parade to proceed along the route in reverse," he said. "This gave more time to ensure that the device would be made safe and reduced the even greater delay that would have resulted if the original direction of the parade has been used."

"This was a practical solution to a problem that was not of the making of the parade organisers or the residents' group," he added.

The hoax device was placed at the town's Orange Hall, delaying the start of the parade until after 10pm.

While there were some scuffles, the parade passed without major incident and no arrests were made. A dedicated team has been set up to examine footage collected by video evidence teams and any disorder captured on that footage will be dealt with.

Daithi McKay, Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA, claimed the PSNI's decision to re-route the parade was illegal as it was not cleared with the Parades Commission. He also maintained that because the parade did not end until after midnight, it was spread out over two separate days, adding: "That was also illegal as the parade was only filed for the 20th of August. The PSNI knew that this was the case and pushed ahead with the parade anyway."

Elsewhere, unionists raised concerns over how a suspicious device was planted outside the Orange Hall on the night.

The Parades Commission is expected to examine what happened.

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