Republicans plan Easter Rising parade through Belfast city centre
REPUBLICANS are planning to march through Belfast city centre next month to mark the 101st anniversary of the Easter Rising.
The parade, which is expected to attract up to 400 people and two bands, has been organised by a newly-established group called Aontacht, which is Irish for unity.
It was formed after a similar parade last year and describes itself as being made up of 'non-aligned' republicans.
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.
It passed off without serious incident despite a loyalist protest in the city centre.
It emerged last night that an unidentified group, believed to be loyalist, is also planning to hold a protest during this year's parade involving up to 500 people.
March organisers say they have asked the Parades Commission for consent to carry replica vintage weapons through the city centre during the event on Sunday April 23, the day before the rising's calendar anniversary.
In the past some republican parades through Belfast have proved contentious.
A march organised by the Anti-Internment League was banned from entering the city centre last year.
In 2013 there was serious violence between the PSNI and loyalists after protesters attempted to block a similar AIL parade from going down Royal Avenue.
Next month's parade is expected to leave New Lodge Road before making its way along Donegall Street and onto Royal Avenue at around 11.30am.
From there it will move onto Castle Street and Divis Street where a Easter Rising memorial plaque will be unveiled. It will then march along the Falls Road to Milltown Cemetery for a ceremony.
Aontacht chair Tony Harrison said the parade will be completed before traders open for business.
“We are talking about a shared future and then the city centre belongs to everybody."
He added that organisers have previously “adhered to every Parades Commission determination” and he expects the march to be peaceful.
“If we thought there would be any violence we would not be walking through it,” he said.
“There are kids attending and some of them are young. We would not want to put them in any kind of danger."