Fears over sectarian clashes at Belfast G8 rally
There are fears extremists will hijack a G8 protest this weekend.
A shadowy group calling itself the Ulster Defence League, Belfast Division, issued a rallying call yesterday ahead of Saturday’s G8 protest.
An estimated 20,000 protesters will make their way from the Custom House Square to the City Hall, where speeches will be hosted ahead of next week’s G8 summit in Co Fermanagh.
Organisers, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), described the rally as an opportunity to voice opposition to some of the policies of the G8 countries.
However, concerns are mounting after the call by the little-known UDL to attend Saturday’s protest, to “counter... dissidents who (are) going to infiltrate” it.
A message posted on the group’s Facebook page called on supporters to attend a “big protest at Belfast City Hall on Saturday to counter... lefty’s, commy’s and the dissident’s (sic) who are going to infiltrate them”.
“So us Prod’s must be there to meet them head on!!” the message added.
Dissident republican group Eirigi, which has said it will be protesting at the G8 summit, is expected to attend Saturday’s protest in Belfast.
An Ictu spokesman said that everyone would be welcome at the event.
“I’m not going to say to anyone to stay away if they are coming in the right spirit,” he said. “Trade unions have worked with republicans and loyalists in improving good relations across Northern Ireland. But if they are wanting to cause trouble, then plainly they are not welcome.”
Kevin Doherty from Ictu said the group had been informed by loyalist sources that the Ulster Defence League has no links with the main loyalist groups.
“I understand they are separate to any of the loyalist organisations. I think the only links they have are to the flag protests,” Mr Doherty said. “We first became aware of them online two weeks ago, after the death of (murdered soldier) Lee Rigby,” he added.
The police have warned that, “to remain within the law, protesters should not block roads or prevent the free flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic”.
However, Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers said there were serious concerns the G8 protest could descend into trouble amid shoppers and tourists in the city’s centre.
“Naturally, because these groups (Ulster Defence League Belfast division and Eirigi) are poles apart in regards to their views, there are concerns about serious public disorder,” he said.
Saturday’s G8 protest will start at Custom House Square shortly after noon. Protesters will march through Belfast’s centre to City Hall, where trade union leaders will give speeches until 2pm.
Organisers yesterday unveiled a banner to be carried at the event, bearing the words, ‘Another World Is Possible’.