Northern Ireland news

Parades Commission rejects request to review ban on city centre interment march

Police stop an anti-internment parade in north Belfast last August. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Connla Young

THE Parades Commission has rejected a request to review its decision to ban an anti-internment parade from Belfast city centre this weekend.

A solicitor for the Anti-Internment League (AIL), which has organised the march, last night said the decision to reject the request and ban the parade will now be challenged.

Up to 5,000 people and four bands are to mark the 45th anniversary of internment on Sunday when hundreds of nationalists were jailed without charge.

The parade is also intended to highlight claims by republicans that they continue to be 'interned by remand' today.

Organisers had intended to march from Andersonstown in west Belfast to Donegall Place before a rally at city hall ending at 1.30pm.

However, the Parades Commission has ruled that the march cannot pass the junction of Divis Street and Barrack Street.

In the past similar parades have travelled form north Belfast to the city centre.

Republicans claim the route of this year’s parade was designed not to pass any contentious areas and cause minimum distruption to city centre traders.

They also complain it is being treated differently to loyalist parades which have recently been allowed to pass through the city centre during key trading times.

The Parades Commission said its decision was reached after traders voiced concerns and violence erupted after a similar event in north Belfast last year.

Lawyers for the AIL wrote to the Parades Commission earlier this week giving grounds for why it believed a review should be granted.

But a 10-page response issued yesterday by the commission rejected the request, claiming organisers had presented no fresh information.

Michael Brentnall, who acts for the AIL, claimed new information had been provided to the commission.

“The commission has refused to trigger a review on what we would assert is an entirely legitimate basis for review.

“Our client has therefore instructed our office to challenge this decision in addition to the substantive decision to restrict the march from Belfast city centre.”

Earlier this week former republican internees, including ‘Hooded Men’ Francie McGuigan and Kevin Hannaway, gave their backing to the parade.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said on Tuesday night that the parade should not have been excluded from the city centre, but marchers should abide by the ruling.

“Towns and city centres are shared spaces capable of facilitating parades from all perspectives and traditions," he said.

“In that context no determination should exclude the entirety of the city centre from a route filed for and it is Sinn Féin’s view that in this instance the Parades Commission’s determination is wrong.

“However, while the rationale for the determination may be difficult to comprehend it must none the less be adhered to.”

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