Belfast Telegraph

Fury over masked republicans at Belfast Easter Rising parade

Police probe as masked men march at Rising event

By Rebecca Black

The PSNI is examining footage of masked republicans parading openly in west Belfast.

The force launched the probe after images emerged of around 30 people dressed in paramilitary-style outfits with sunglasses and scarves covering their faces.

On their heads were black berets with a five-point star - a symbol commonly associated with the INLA.

The parade was held to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Those in paramilitary garb are believed to have paraded up the Falls Road and onto Milltown Cemetery on the same day that a number of marches to commemorate the uprising were held across Belfast.

The parade was organised by the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), which complained on its Facebook page that the PSNI had warned the party that its march constituted an illegal gathering.

The Parades Commission was notified about the parade, but it is understood that the paramilitary-style uniforms represented a breach of the organisation's code of conduct.

The PSNI said it was pursuing evidence of potential offences or breaches of parading rules.

The IRSP described the masked people as "a Citizen's Army colour party", and said the parade stopped to lower flags at the graves of several INLA and IRA members before moving to the republican socialist plot at Milltown Cemetery.

The event came after a number of incidents involving masked people on parade over the Easter period, including in Ardoyne, Lurgan, Coalisland and Londonderry.

A speech given at the Lurgan event contained a threat against the lives of those who serve in the security services. DUP Assembly candidate Nelson McCausland condemned the latest masked parade.

"This was organised by the Republican Socialist Commemoration Committee, but it was not really a commemoration of the 1916 Easter rebellion," he said.

"The presence of masked men in modern paramilitary uniforms was an affirmation of what was probably the deadliest of all the republican terrorist organisations, the INLA."

Members of the Protestant Coalition also questioned why police did not challenge those on the ground.

A spokesman for the PSNI said the force was in the process of reviewing all evidence gathered.

He added that police would pursue "all relevant lines of inquiry relating to any offences or breaches of the Parades Commission determinations."

A number of parades took place across Ireland on Sunday to mark the date of the rising.

The main displays in Belfast took place in the north and west of the city.

A loyalist protest took place at the same time as one of the republican parades, which travelled along Royal Avenue in the city centre.

The INLA is believed to have been responsible for an estimated 120 murders throughout the course of the Troubles.

Among its most high-profile victims was the Conservative MP Airey Neave, a close ally of Margaret Thatcher, in 1979. It declared a ceasefire in 1998.

Belfast Telegraph

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