Belfast Telegraph

Red-faced Alliance gets it wrong over St Pat's parade 'IRA chants'

By Niamh Burns

The Alliance Party has apologised after issuing a statement condemning IRA chanting at the St Patrick's Day parade - in a video that turned out to be a year old.

Its Press office released the statement on Sunday criticising what it claimed were people "chanting pro-IRA slogans" while watching the St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast city centre.

Suspicions were raised because the sunny weather in the video did not match the rainy conditions on Friday.

When the Belfast Telegraph contacted Alliance on Sunday about the discrepancy, its Press officer insisted the video was from Friday, adding that the party stood over its statement.

However, yesterday it admitted it had got it wrong, and offered an apology.

A spokesman said the video and Press release were issued "in good faith".

He added: "In relation to a video circulating showing chanting at the St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast, we were passed the video and believed it to show this year's event.

"It is clear now that is not the case, and we apologise.

"We commented on the video in good faith.

"Our website article has been updated to reflect this."

The video obtained by Alliance, which depicts crowds on Donegall Place, close to City Hall, appears to be from the 2016 parade.

The original statement from Alliance had contained comments from South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw condemning the chants. She had initially said: "It is extremely disappointing some watching the main parade in the city centre decided to participate in pro-IRA chanting.

"It certainly did not serve to foster the inclusive atmosphere which St Patrick's Day should provide."

The video incident follows what was a relatively peaceful St Patrick's Day in the city.

A total of 15 people were arrested in the city centre and the Holyland area of south Belfast for minor offences including disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest.

Police flooded the Holyland ahead of Friday in a bid to avoid a repeat of the disorder that marred the 2016 St Patrick's celebrations.

Locals said up to three times as many officers were on hand compared to last year.

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