Belfast Telegraph

Republican parade: Massive police presence in Belfast city centre ahead of march which sparked loyalist rioting last year

By John Mulgrew

A massive police presence has been mounted in the heart of Belfast City Centre ahead of a republican parade which sparked violence last year.

Over 1,000 loyalist protesters gathered on Royal Avenue - the city's main thoroughfare - this time last year, against the march marking the introduction of internment during the Troubles.

Fifty-six police officers were injured during the subsequent rioting - as missiles were thrown during a chaotic night of violence.

Some 4,000 people are expected to take part in the republican parade today, including the same again in supporter numbers.

It will begin in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast at 1pm before heading into the city centre.

Two loyalist counter-protests are also due to take place.

That includes some 500 expected at the 'Loyal People's Protest' - the purpose of which is stated as "Respect to the UDR soldiers murdered at Royal Avenue and all the innocent people injured in the bombings in Belfast City Centre."

A second protest by the Shankill Residents Group which is expected to have 600 participants and the purpose is stated as: "The murder of the two UDR soldiers at Royal Avenue Castle Court Side."

On Friday night, Orange banners and Union flags were among the items that went up in flames as bonfires took place marking the anniversary of the introduction of internment.

Last year, missiles began flying at the junction of North Street and Royal Avenue shortly after 6pm.

Trouble flared close to where the planned republican rally was due to pass through the city centre.

It was then held back a short distance away as rioting continued.

As bricks and masonry flew through the air, tourists and onlookers gathered close to the scenes of trouble - many of them photographing the violence.

Trouble flared as Northern Ireland hosted the World Police and Fire Games.

The following areas will be closed to traffic between 1pm and 2.30pm - High Street, Royal Avenue, North Street, Millfield, Carrick Hill, Donegall Street, Castle Street and Frederick Street however arterial routes will remain open and alternative routes will be made available.

The Westlink and Dunbar Link will remain open and diversions will be in place.

To read the full determination by the Parades Commission, click here.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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