Heavy police presence for Easter Rising parade and counter protest
A REPUBLICAN parade through Belfast city centre yesterday to mark the calendar anniversary of the Easter Rising passed off without incident, police have said.
There was a heavy security presence in the city centre as loyalists staged a counter demonstration along a short stretch of Royal Avenue.
There was jeering and shouting as marchers made their way past protesters, but the parade passed off peacefully and police confirmed there were no arrests.
The parade, which attracted smaller numbers than a similar one held last year to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
It was organised by a newly-established republican group Aontacht which formed following last year's parade and is made up of 'non-aligned' republicans.
The Parades Commission placed restrictions on the march, which began in the New Lodge area of north Belfast at 11am.
Bands were only permitted to play a single drum beat while passing along Donegall Street from its junction with North Queen Street and Royal Avenue, and again as the march made its way past a memorial to two UDR members killed by the IRA on Royal Avenue between the junction of North Queen Street and Lower Garfield Street.
Just before the republican march passed through the city centre, a crowd gathered to lay wreaths and say prayers for UDR members Frederick Starrett and James Cummings, close to the spot where the pair were killed in an IRA bomb attack in 1988.
The Aontacht parade made its way through the city centre to Divis Street where an Easter Rising plaque was unveiled.
Participants carrying replica weapons and dressed in costume from the Rising period were joined by bands and people holding portraits of the leaders of the 1916 rebellion.
Last year's march, dubbed the 'People's Parade', attempted to recreate a parade which took place through west Belfast in 1966 to mark the 50th anniversary of the rising.
A huge police operation saw almost 600 officers deployed in Belfast at a cost of more than £100,000 as loyalists protested against a parade by the North Belfast 1916 Easter Rising Centenary Committee.
On that occasion, republicans walked from north to west Belfast to join the main Rising centenary parade which ended at Milltown Cemetery.
Aontacht is set to host a ‘Republic Day' event at Milltown Cemetery today, on what is the calendar anniversary of the Rising.
Those taking part will walk from the gates of the cemetery to the Harbinson Plot where the Proclamation will be read out.