Thousands of dissident republicans plan Belfast city centre march
Thousands of dissident republicans are planning to march through Belfast city centre this summer to commemorate the anniversary of internment.
They are to lodge an application for the march on August 6, which will involve 10 bands, with the Parades Commission on Monday.
They aren't seeking to hold their rally at City Hall as they have tried to do in the past two years. Rather, they are planning to march from Ardoyne into the city centre and then on to Dunville Park on the Falls Road.
Last year, the parade, which was attended by Colin Duffy and other leading dissidents, was prevented by police from entering the city centre. Demonstrators dispersed peacefully.
But in 2015, there were clashes between the PSNI and republicans after the march was stopped. And two years earlier, 56 officers were injured after loyalist protesters attacked police during the demonstration.
Loyalist sources last night warned that counter-demonstrations were likely if this year's parade was given the go ahead. Dee Fennell of the Anti-Internment League said that the organisers would be applying for a march involving around 3,000 people.
"We will be applying to go down Donegall Street, up Royal Avenue and then into Castle Street on our way to west Belfast," he said.
"We took the decision not to apply to hold our rally at City Hall in order to lessen tensions and so the focus could be on the issues we are highlighting, like the continuing use of internment by remand, rather than faux outrage by some."
Mr Fennell said that the march would be setting off at 11am so that it would be clear of the city centre by lunchtime when stores open.
"Previously, there were complaints from CastleCourt management and Belfast Chamber of Commerce that the march interfered with business. That can't be said now," he added.
Mr Fennell said that participants would march to a single drumbeat, with no songs played, as they proceeded through the city centre.
"The loyal orders, pro-life and pro-choice, socialist and gay rights' activists all march through the city centre. If Belfast is truly a shared space, then republicans should have that right too," he stated.
DUP councillor, Lee Reynolds, said that the Parades Commission must proceed carefully.
"This particular parade has a very negative history in terms of our city.
"There have been breaches of previous determinations, so any new application must be considered in that light," he added.