| 13°C Belfast

Rulings aim to keep three 'high risk' Belfast marches apart


Demonstration: Jolene Bunting

Demonstration: Jolene Bunting

Demonstration: Jolene Bunting

Three controversial parades planned for this Sunday have been banned from crossing paths in Belfast city centre.

The Parades Commission placed restrictions yesterday on events planned by the Anti-Internment League (AIL), Loyal People's Protest (LPP) and Northern Ireland Against Terrorism (NIAT).

The watchdog said yesterday that all three presented "high risks of public disorder".

The republican anti-internment parade applied for a march of up to 5,000 supporters in north Belfast, parading through the city centre to the west.

It has now been banned from the city centre and ordered not to pass beyond North Queen Street.

The event was also restricted last year following public disorder in 2013 and 2015.

The LPP claimed 10,000 will take part in its "anti-terrorism march".

The Parades Commission ruling noted it had a history of protesting against republican parades and it will not be allowed to proceed past Donegall Square West beside City Hall.

The NIAT event is advertised as a protest against both domestic and international terrorism, with speeches from the leaders of far-Right group Britain First, which describes itself as "pro-British, anti-Islamic and anti-immigration".

The event is banned from the front of City Hall and was ordered to assemble adjacent to it instead, on Donegall Square East. The parades body said that while it was not certain the events would draw the full numbers listed, having all three groups in the same space still posed a significant risk to public order.

The LPP claimed the ruling as a victory despite the restrictions on its gathering.

Posting on its Facebook page, the organisers said they achieved their "main objective" of stopping "active republicans from parading our city centre".

A statement on the AIL Facebook page called the Parades Commission "perverse" for restricting its event while facilitating "native loyalists" and "the travelling far-Right in our city".

The LPP had previously accused the organisers of the NIAT parade of "hijacking" its event.

Independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting, who helped organise the NIAT protest, claimed it was a "mix-up" over a parades application, which had now been resolved.

She also denied that members of Britain First in Belfast would stir tensions.

"It's about having freedom to speak out against and oppose terrorism," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"They are anti-Islamic, they're concerned about mass immigration into the UK.

"They also understand we have freedom of religion in the UK, which people fought and died for.

"It's not that they're against a religion, they're against the teachings in the religion that are making people go out and kill."

Belfast Telegraph