The head of the Parades Commission today warned splinter republicans over a second protest parade against the Army’s homecoming parade in Belfast next Sunday.
As tensions over the city centre event continued to rise, Commission Chairman Roger Poole said any illegal demonstrations would be dealt with by the PSNI. He was referring to a planned protest by the socialist republican group Eirigi which has called for a demonstration at Divis Tower shortly before the Army parade.
But the commission in turn also came under fire from the DUP after allowing a Sinn Fein protest against the demonstration to go ahead.
North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland accused it of “pandering to bigotry” and called the decision an insult to those who had served in the Army and their families.
Describing the verdict — which came after DUP leader Peter Robinson and deputy Nigel Dodds met the commission earlier this week — as indefensible, Mr McCausland said: “The Parades Commission has simply caved into the demands of Sinn Fein and their decision is a recipe for disaster.
“Members of the general public, Protestant and Roman Catholic, will be rerouted away from Donegall Place and shunted down side streets to accommodate republican bigotry.”
But Mr Poole said Mr McCausland was “wrong” because the commission had a duty to those who wanted to see the Army parade and also “in a democracy” to those who want to peacefully protest can do so.
In its determination the commission said the Sinn Fein-led protest must not leave Bank Square before 11.30am with the Army parade to start at 11.45am.
“Sinn Fein's willingness to co-operate and engage with the Commission and the PSNI has been a positive contribution to the planning for the event,” the determination said.
“In the same way the MoD has shown a willingness to plan their event in a sensitive manner.”
Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Paul Maskey said: "We made the commission aware of the fact that the protest rally will highlight the legacy of the RIR and their predecessors the UDR here in Ireland as well as opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where thousands of civilians have been killed.”