Belfast Telegraph

Parades: Massive loyalist protest in Belfast on busy Christmas shopping day set to flout restrictions

By John Mulgrew

Loyalist protesters set to descend on Belfast city centre during one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas could be set to flout parading restrictions.

Some 10,000 loyalists are due to converge on the city centre on Saturday - to mark the first anniversary of a council decision to limit the flying of the Union flag - after the parade was given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission.

The parading watchdog has already ruled it should depart City Hall by noon and be clear of the junction of Royal Avenue and North Street by 12.30pm.

But flyers being circulated online have encouraged people to gather at 1pm for the 'human rights parade', which will march to the Woodvale area of north Belfast.

It renews concerns over further breaches of the commission decision, following a similar protest parade through Belfast in September.

Thousands of people - including bands and supporters - marched from City Hall to north Belfast at around 1.30pm on Saturday, September 21.

But the parade - organised by a group called Loyal Peaceful Protesters - was in breach of a Parades Commission decision which said the march should have moved off from City Hall no later than 12.30pm.

There are growing fears of yet further devastating impact on retail in the city.

The latest march is due to to take place on one of the busiest trading days of the year.

Loyalists will again gather at City Hall, where the popular Christmas Market is currently trading, and make their way along Royal Avenue, the Shankill Road, and on to Tennent Street.

Earlier this week First Minister Peter Robinson called for those involved in the parade to protest in a way which causes the least damage to the economy.

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