Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Easter parades must keep within the law

Editor's Viewpoint

For many people in both main communities in Northern Ireland Easter is a period of Christian reflection and reassurance.

For others, however, in Lurgan and Belfast, it is an annual opportunity to celebrate armed republicanism, which is associated with the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

At the weekend the police made a number of arrests when a group of people in paramilitary garb attempted to take part in a procession that had not been notified to the authorities. It appears to have been organised by Republican Sinn Fein.

This event has taken place in previous years, and resulted in arrests at a later stage, which seems to have been the best way to deal with the provocation.

However, people chose not to learn from the past, including the Lurgan marchers, once again.

The participants on Saturday were masked, and they must have known the implications of what they were doing.

Previous similar events caused considerable community anger, and were seen as a deliberately inflammatory act and a glorification of terror in a town that has witnessed a great deal of republican violence.

It is particularly significant that a number of people had travelled some distance to take part in the procession on Saturday.

When the police finally moved in to stop the parade there were some injuries, and that is to be regretted.

However, the overall police operation was proportional and professional, and it sent out a clear message that such flouting of the law would not be tolerated.

In Belfast a number of republicans in similar paramilitary garb were also on the march, but senior police officers decided to maintain a lower profile, and pledged to gather evidence and to proceed with action at a later date.

This promise must be kept, and it must be made clear to people that they cannot flout the law at will.

These are acts of deliberate coat-trailing which is aimed at heightening community tensions at a time when this is the last thing Northern Ireland needs.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie put the point well by saying: "Remembrance of what is important to your community does not mean that you can break the law. It means that you should commemorate within the confines of the law."

Belfast Telegraph

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