Belfast Telegraph

Parades Commission 'serious concern over Belfast anti-internment parade organiser's intention for peaceful and lawful event'

Ban on marching to Belfast City Hall imposed

The Parades Commission has said it restricted an anti-internment parade next month over fears about the organiser's intention to hold a lawful and peaceful event.

The  Anti-Internment League organised parade planned for August has been banned from marching to Belfast City Hall by the Parades Commission.

Organisers of the march have told the Parades Commission that they expect 5,000 people to take part in the event on August 7.

There had been concerns over disturbances, with loyalists threatening to hold counter-demonstrations if the rally was given the go-ahead.

Dissident republicans have marched through the city centre to commemorate internment before, but this is the first time they have sought to hold a rally outside Belfast City Hall.

The commission's determination states that the National Anti Internment Parade should disperse at the junction of Divis Street and Barrack Street.

The parade will set off from Andersonstown and walk along the Falls Road before dispersing. Four flute bands are scheduled to take part.

A Parades Commission spokesman explained the decision: "The commission has decided that it is necessary to restrict the route of the Anti-Internment League away from the city centre to Barrack Street.

"The commission has always recognised the city centre as a neutral space that should be accessible for all and therefore this decision has not been taken lightly.

"The deliberate breach of the timing condition, resulting in public disorder by the parade participants and/or supporters last year, has increased significantly the risks of the proposed parade this year as has the organiser’s refusal to engage with the Commission.

"The commission has not received some essential information, specifically requested, about the proposed parade including the dispersal plans at the city hall.

"The commission has received no assurances about any aspect of the parade."

He continued: "The lack of assurances about the proposed parade raises serious concerns about the organiser’s genuine intention to hold a peaceful and lawful event this year. 

"The commission has addressed in its decision the disproportionate, serious and prolonged impacts the parade had upon the human rights of others. 

"It has reflected the adverse impacts of the parade upon community relations and community life, and the extremely high risks of public disorder."

A statement from the Anti internment league said: "This year's route avoids any interfaces, any Protestant places of worship. Our departure and dispersal times meant no impact on trade.

"In contrast, the UVF recently marched through Belfast City Centre, accompanied by DUP and UUP representatives and thousands of followers. They did so on the busiest trading day, Saturday, and at the busiest time of that day.

"The Parades Commission not only approved this parade without restriction, they did not even deem it sensitive.

"By comparison, the Six County Stormont State has again today publicly announced that progressives, republicans and others should be restricted and treated as second class citizens."

This is the fourth year that dissidents have sought to march through the city to commemorate internment's introduction.

In 2013, 56 PSNI officers were injured after loyalist protesters attacked the police during the demonstration. The following year, trouble was prevented following a massive police operation which saw streets blocked off hours in advance.

Last year, there were clashes between the PSNI and republicans after police stopped the march, which started in north Belfast, entering the city centre.

The Parades Commission's full determination can be downloaded here [PDF].

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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