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Call for calm ahead of British army veterans rally and republican counter parade

Protesters at today's military veterans' rally at City Hall, Belfast, organised by Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans. Picture by Brian Lawless, PA Wire
Connla Young

THERE have been appeals for calm ahead of a rally in central Belfast today in support of British army veterans where republicans will stage a counter-protest.

Up to 500 protesters are expected to take part in the Saoradh-organised parade in protest at a rally in support of British army veterans outside city hall.

The rally has been organised by Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans to highlight their opposition to the prosecution of former British soldiers in Troubles-related cases.

The event will coincide with similar rallies taking place in London and Glasgow.

The rally is due to take place just days after a coroner ruled that that the British army killing of 15-year-old Derry boy Manus Deery in May 1972 was unjustified.

The teenager was standing outside a chip shop in the Bogside with friends when he was hit in the head by fragments from a ricochet bullet.

The republican counter parade will set off from Castle Street at around 10.30 and make its way to traffic lights at Donegall Place and Donegall Square North bringing those taking part within yards of the former British soldiers and their supporters.

It is believed loyalists are also intending to attend the rally.

Those taking part in the parade have been told to disperse around the same time or before the rally ends at noon.

The PSNI is expected to have a large presence in the area.

A spokeswoman for the Parades Commission last night confirmed that the body received five requests to review their original decision to allow the parade but these were rejected.

“After consideration, the commission concluded that none of the grounds set out in the requests constituted any fresh information sufficient to trigger a review,” the spokeswoman said.

South Belfast Alliance assembly member Paula Bradshaw last night called for calm.

"I would appeal for calm from all sides," she said.

"We have recently had a number of parades pass off peacefully and I hope this one is similar."

Both delegations of DUP and UUP politicians met with the PSNI earlier this week.

UUP councillor Sonia Copeland said her party “wants to ensure that the police will have sufficient resources available on Friday to ensure that the dignified and respectful event which has been organised by the military veterans is able to take place without any interference”.

PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones said appealed to “organisers and participants” to be “responsible, respectful, to act peacefully and within the law”.

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