Northern Ireland news

Police investigating breaches of Parades Commission determinations during Saoradh hunger strike rally in Newry

A Saoradh parade through Newry on Saturday is under investigation by the PSNI for breaches of Parades Commission determinations
John Monaghan

Police have launched an investigation into breaches of Parades Commission determinations during a hunger strike commemoration by the dissident republican group Saoradh in Newry.

The parade, which was given the go-ahead by the Parades Commission with strict conditions, made its way through the city to Raymond McCreesh Park, where a rally was held to remember the ten republican hunger strikers who died in 1981.

Some of the several hundred participants wore dark glasses and paramilitary style clothing, which is prohibited by the Parades Commission's code of conduct.

Saoradh came under pressure to disband following the killing of journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead by a gunman from the 'New IRA' - to whom Saoradh are believed to be closely linked - during disturbances in Derry in April.

Saoradh national executive member Dee Fennell said it was "particularly fitting" that the parade had concluded at the park named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

"No doubt this commemoration will become a mainstay in the republican calendar for years to come. I want to commend the local people who faced ongoing intimidation and vilification for ensuring this park remains named after a gallant IRA volunteer and H Block martyr," he said.

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor said he was "angry and disgusted" at the breaches during the parade, which he said should not have been allowed to go ahead.

"Prior to the event, I had made representations to the Parades Commission outlining my concerns that the march was designed to raise community tensions and inflict further trauma on innocent victims of IRA violence.

"With these issues in mind, it was my strong belief that the event should have been banned by the Parades Commission.

"Unfortunately, my fears were justified as a consequence of the unacceptable events that occurred in Newry.

"What has occurred is a serious breach of the rule of law and there must be consequences for all those participants who flagrantly disregarded the determinations set out in respect of the march," he added.

PSNI Chief Inspector Nigel Henry said the Parades Commission ruling was breached "on a number of occasions, despite numerous verbal warnings".

"The aim of the policing operation was to keep people safe and facilitate the parade in line with the law," he said.

"A full evidence gathering operation was in place and an investigation into the breaches has commenced."

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