Orange Order to stage protest at internment rally
An Orange Order protest against a dissident republican parade through the centre of Belfast does not signal a shift in policy, a senior figure has said.
Six groups plan to protest at this evening's anti-internment parade.
The Orange Order has notified the Parades Commission of a demonstration at Royal Avenue with two other protests planned by United Protestant Voice and the Protestant Coalition.
The Order's No 2 district plans to stage a 100-strong protest. The district has been embroiled in the parading row in north Belfast after its members were prevented from marching past Ardoyne on the Twelfth and subsequently.
Another group, Friends of No 9 District, has notified the Parades Commission of a demonstration featuring 150 people. A determination on that is due to be made today.
It is believed to be the first time the Orange Order has protested against a republican parade.
The Orange Order chaplain Mervyn Gibson said the decision to protest was taken by the district involved and denied it was a shift in policy.
"It was a local decision," he said.
"I think a crisis has been created by the Parades Commission and everything now has become contentious again. There is anger about the dissident parade."
Mr Gibson called on those taking part in protests to ensure they are peaceful.
The parading watchdog has already issued its determinations on the remaining two protests to be held by loyalist residents each featuring up to 150 people.
The protests could see up to 1,000 unionist/loyalist demonstrators picket the parade.
Last week the anti-internment rally was given the go-ahead with no restrictions on the route of the 5,000-strong march.
The parade's organising body, the Anti-Internment League, is an umbrella group formed specifically for next week's rally.
A number of dissident republican groups united to organise the event under the title including the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and Republican Network for Unity (RNU), both of which are alleged to have links to republican terror groups, which they deny.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party, eirigi and the 1916 Societies are also involved.
Organisers said they also intend inviting trade unions, GAA clubs and human rights groups.
Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon the now weekly Orange parade towards Ardoyne will again be blocked by police from passing Woodvale Parade.
Marchers will assemble at Ardoyne Avenue at 6pm before walking along Oldpark, Cliftonville and Antrim roads. They will parade on Donegall Street, Royal Avenue, Castle Street and the Falls Road. The commission stressed "the importance of respectful behaviour in the vicinity of interface areas, namely that there shall be no singing, chanting, or loud drumming".