Republican march that sparked loyalist riot in Belfast last year is given the go-ahead
Fifty-six police officers were injured in night of chaotic violence on August 9, 2013
Published 01/08/2014 | 09:07
A republican parade through Belfast city centre that sparked major rioting last year has been given the go-ahead for this year by the Parades Commission – infuriating unionists.
Violence erupted in the Royal Avenue area last August as more than 1,000 loyalist demonstrators gathered to protest at the republican rally to mark the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles.
Fifty-six police officers were injured during the subsequent loyalist rioting that shut down the city's main thoroughfare in a night of chaotic violence.
The trouble occurred as the city played host to thousands of international visitors attending the World Police and Fire Games.
The Parades Commission has now granted permission for the same parade to take place on Sunday, August 10.
Organisers, which last year included the main dissident groups – the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Republican Network for Unity, have applied to bring 12 bands and 4,000 participants and supporters onto the streets.
The parade will start at Ardoyne Avenue before coming along North Queen Street, Donegall Street, Royal Avenue and ending at the Andersonstown Road.
A number of restrictions have been placed on the parade.
The determination issued by the Parades Commission said: "No paramilitary-style clothing is to be worn at any time during the parade and flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation shall in no circumstances be displayed."
It also stressed the importance of respectful behaviour in the vicinity of interface areas and that there is to be no singing or using words or behaviour that could be perceived as intentionally sectarian.
Two loyalist counter-protests have also had restrictions placed on them.
Five hundred people are expected at the Loyal People's Protest, the purpose of which is stated as "Respect to the UDR soldiers murdered at Royal Avenue and all the innocent people injured in the bombings in Belfast City Centre."
The determination indicates that the protest "shall take place on the footpath from a point of 50 metres cityward of the junction of Royal Avenue and Lower Garfield Street," and that it should have no more than 200 people at this location and should disperse immediately after the parade.
The same restrictions have been placed on a second protest by the Shankill Residents Group which is expected to have 600 participants and the purpose is stated as: "The murder of the two UDR soldiers at Royal Avenue Castle Court Side."
Following news of the determination's conditions, former Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile took to Twitter to post: "Any chance parades commission would take the same approach and ban 'paramilitary style flags' at parades in east Belfast."
Loyalists and unionists have expressed their anger at the decision to once again allow the parade.
Initially some thought no restrictions had been put in place, and termed it a "recipe for disaster."
DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds slammed the Parades Commission and called for consistency in its decisions.
He said the Anti-Internment League parade would raise tensions in the current climate over parading
Mr Dodds said: "It's a parade that is unwanted by the vast bulk of people on both sides of Northern Ireland and in Belfast.
"It's organised by a group of republicans who are simply out to indulge in a coat-trailing exercise through the city centre.
"If the Parades Commission were consistent in their determinations, then they would apply the same logic to this parade as they apply to loyalist parades and Orange Order parades."
He added: "It's typical of the Parades Commission and I think this parade does nothing for community relations and just causes further damage to the image of Belfast.
"I think undoubtedly it is an unnecessary exercise and does raise tensions in Belfast at a time where we have had quite a peaceful period in relation to parades generally.
"This is totally unnecessary and unjustified."
Strangely, the commission also ruled that no supporters shall accompany the parade between the junction of North Queen Street and Donegall Street and the junction of Donegall Street and Royal Avenue," and "the organisers and all participants in the parade shall ensure that behaviour is respectful in the vicinity of St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street".
These are the same of restrictions placed on loyalist parades passing the church and surround interface area and it's not clear why the same limitations have been placed on a republican parade.
Meanwhile nationalists are also furious about a parade in south Belfast last night to commemorate two loyalist paramilitaries gunned down by the IRA.
Bands paraded along the Ormeau Rd - now a mixed area where police said they would treat the erection of loyalist flags as a breach of the peace - in honour of Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder.
The bands carried wreaths to be laid where the pair died.
They were shot dead by the IRA in 1994 in an ambush as they emerged from the notorious Kimberley Bar.
Further reading:Parades Commission rules on controversial hunger strike march in Derrylin - IRA clothes and flags banned