Northern Ireland news

Loyalists plan Belfast city centre parade at same time as anti-internment march

Loyalists protesters clash with police at Royal Avenue in Belfast city centre in 2013
Connla Young

A LOYALIST parade has been planned for Belfast city centre at the same time as a republican march next month.

Organisers of the republican parade, the Anti-Internment League, say up to 5,000 people and five bands will mark the 46th anniversary of the introduction of internment, during which hundreds of nationalists were jailed without charge.

However, it has now emerged that a group known as the Loyal People's Protest also intends to walk through the city centre on August 6.

Both marches have been listed as "sensitive" by the Parades Commission.

The loyalist group has in the past held protests during republican parades through the city, including the now annual anti-internment march.

It said no bands will take part in the parade and the number of people involved has yet to be confirmed.

The group has been behind Union flag protests in the past.

It said it plans to hold the procession from Belfast City Hall along Donegall Square and Donegall Place to Royal Avenue.

The parade is due to begin at 11.15am and end at 1pm.

Meanwhile, republicans are expected to leave Ardoyne in north Belfast at 11.30am before making their way to Royal Avenue via Cliftonville Road, New Lodge Road, North Queen Street and Donegall Street.

The march is expected to reach Royal Avenue around the same time that the loyalist parade is taking place, before making its way along Castle Street and Divis Street to Dunville Park on the Falls Road.

A similar parade, which started in Andersonstown in west Belfast, was banned from going to Belfast city hall for a rally last year.

Dozens of PSNI officers and Land Rovers blocked the route close to the city centre.

In 2015 an AIL parade, which also left from Ardoyne in north Belfast, was stopped by police in the Oldpark area after it failed to clear the city centre before a deadline set by the Parades Commission.

In previous years marchers were allowed to pass through the city centre.

In 2013 there was serious rioting on Royal Avenue after loyalists opposed to the parade clashed with police.

The following year a similar republican parade passed off without major incident.

The Parades Commission is set to consider both parades in the coming weeks.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said last night: "I would appeal for calm from all sides ahead of the Parades Commission's determination in respect of this parade and procession.

"Everyone must respect their verdict as the lawful decision it is.

"If they are given the go-ahead, everyone participating must act in a peaceful and sensible manner."

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