Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Arlene Foster wants masked dissident republicans at Easter Rising marches behind bars

By Jonny Bell

First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is deeply concerned over displays of masked men parading at Easter Rising demonstrations and dissident republican violence and said those responsible need put behind bars.

The DUP leader hit out after masked men took part in Easter Rising demonstrations in Lurgan and Coalisland over the weekend.

A van was also hijacked and set on fire and police attacked with petrol bombs in the republican Kilwilkie area of the Co Armagh town which hit Easter Monday's train services.

On Monday afternoon, balaclava-clad youths threw stones at police and set a wheelie bin alight in the area.

Mrs Foster said: "I've spoken with [the PSNI's] ACC Martin about the deeply concerning and illegal displays by masked men on Sunday and continued dissident violence last night.

"I want to see these people behind bars. No place for masked men in Northern Ireland.

"Police assure me that evidence has been gathered. It's clear that the Parades Commission determination has been breached."

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, responding said: “In policing all events over the Easter weekend our over-riding desire is to ensure that commemorative occasions, parades and protests pass off lawfully and peacefully.

"Our focus, is on keeping communities safe and our job, with a few notable exceptions, has been made that much easier because of the responsible attitude of all parties concerned.

“We are however, investigating suspected breaches of Parades Commission determinations in Coalisland and un-notified processions in Ardoyne and Lurgan. We have gathered evidence at these events and will present reports to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to holding individuals accountable.”

ACC Martin added: ”There have been numerous events across Northern Ireland so far this weekend and I am pleased that they have passed off largely successfully and without any serious incident.

"Large numbers of people have attended events, in many locations, the vast majority of whom have done so in a spirit of historical commemoration. I look forward to this continuing throughout the rest of Easter Monday.”

Earlier Lurgan councillor Carla Condell Lockhart urged those taking part and attending the town's Apprentice Boys parade to "act calm, walk proud and not fall for republican agenda to criminalise youth".

The Apprentice Boys of Derry are to march through the town on Easter Monday.

DUP councillor Carla Condell Lockhart writing on her Facebook page, she said: "Please be assured that the PSNI are working to ensure the parade takes off on time and remains calm!

"Our thoughts are with the individual whose van was hijacked and set alight.

"Today as we prepare to parade/watch the Apprentice Boys parade in Lurgan can I encourage everyone to remain calm ... There is a republican agenda to have us pulled into controversy and ultimately see our young people arrested and end up with criminal records."

Read more: Riot fears as loyalists given go-ahead for huge Easter Monday march in Lurgan

The former Craigavon Mayor continued: "There is also the worry that someone will get badly injured ... PLEASE PLEASE refrain and think twice before doing anything rash. Remember to ALWAYS ACT WITHIN THE LAW!!!

"Walk tall and proud ... We as a community have no need to stoop to the levels of others. Our aim is for a peaceful, dignified parade aimed at honouring our forefathers."

Meanwhile, in the Falls Court area of west Belfast, police attended a report of a suspicious object, it was later declared a hoax.

And in Co Tyrone the Loughmallon Road was closed due to an elaborate hoax. Police are appealing for witnesses.

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