Belfast Telegraph

Belfast anti-internment parade to march on City Hall for first time

By Jonathan Bell

An anti-internment parade organised by dissident republicans is to march to Belfast city centre for the first time.

The Anti-Internment League said its march was to "oppose the continued use of internment by remand" and highlight "cases of internment including those incarcerated via revocation of licence, by remand, via miscarriage of justice and through 'Garda belief evidence'".

It said such prisoners "did not receive a trial by jury". One of those behind the event is the prominent dissident republican Dee Fennell.

The parade organised to mark the introduction of internment in August 1971, will march from Writers’ Square opposite St Anne’s Cathedral from 1.15pm on Saturday, August 11 and progress to City Hall for the first time in the three-year history of the parade.

In previous years it has been held on a Friday or Sunday and proposed taking a longer route resulting in the Parades Commission taking a decision to re-route. There has also been violent scenes at previous marches involving police and loyalist protesters.

Organisers had hoped a shortening of the route, a reduction in the number of anticipated supporters and changing to a Saturday would convince the Parades Commission to allow it to proceed without restrictions.

The Parades Commission noted how the projection of 1,000 participants was more than double the number which turned out last year. The organisation has said the "inflating" of expected participants has led to heightened tensions in the past.

The parade organiser pledged to adhere to the timings with between 30 and 40 marshals present to ensure it passes off smoothly and in a "non-disruptive fashion".

"The organiser has also stated that on the day there may be fewer than the four bands notified, and that their music will be respectful," the commission said in its determination.

There was no notification of a protest against the parade.

However, given previous opposition to the parade, the commission said it would likely require a major policing operation. It also considered how the event took place at the same time as the weekly flag protest at City Hall. That usually involved up to 25 people, the commission said, and there was potential others would join with that to voice their opposition.

In coming to its decision, the Parades Commission considered the implications of the parade including its potential risks and impact on community relations as well as the potential for disorder. 

It also considered the shorter route and the shorter time span compared to previous years.

It ruled the parade be restricted to 500 participants including supporters and band members and the timings be strictly adhered to. There should be no paramilitary trappings and those taking part should at all times conduct themselves in a respectful manner with no singing, chanting or loud drumming.

The commission said it was important parade participants adhered to codes of conduct in terms of the playing of music, conduct of bands and the presence of emblems and insignia.

"Compliance with all instructions from the police on the day of the parade is essential for a peaceful and lawful event," it added.

In 2015 there were clashes between the PSNI and republicans after police stopped the march from entering the city centre.

The previous year the parade went ahead amid a massive police operation which saw streets blocked off hours in advance.

In 2013, 56 PSNI officers were injured after loyalist protesters attacked the police during a parade.

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