Anti-internment parade to march until 'physically stopped'

The anti-internment arch has been banned from Belfast city centre on Sunday
The anti-internment arch has been banned from Belfast city centre on Sunday

Organisers of an anti-internment parade banned from Belfast city centre have said they intend to complete the march unless they are “physically stopped”.

A large security operation is expected to be put in place for the Anti-Internment League parade tomorrow.

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

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 they cannot pass the junction of Divis Street and Barrack Street.

Violence erupted after police stopped last year’s parade in the Oldpark area of north Belfast.

In 2013 there was also serious violence after protesting loyalists clashed with police in Belfast city centre.

AIL spokesman Gerard Fitzpatrick last night said they will be "marching our planned route until we are stopped”.

“If we can make it to city hall, we will go to city hall," he said.

“We will be walking the route as planned until we can no longer and are physically stopped.”

However, Mr Fitzpatrick said although some people have been angered by the determination, he expects a peaceful outcome.

“We need to get our message out about internment,” he said.

“We expect a peaceful outcome and obviously we don’t want to get caught up in violence."

AIL member Dee Fennell last night also urged “anyone intent on trouble to stay away”.

The restrictions on the march comes just weeks after a large loyalist parade passed through the city centre.

Alliance justice spokesman Trevor Lunn urged those taking part tomorrow to remain peaceful.

"Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture in a peaceful and respectful way,” she said.

“As such, I would encourage the parade organisers to recognise the determination made by the Parades Commission and stick to it. It is essential its ruling is upheld, as anyone who breaks it is breaking the law."

The commission has said the march was restricted to "mitigate the parade's potential for public disorder, its adverse impacts upon community relations and upon the life of the community”.

It also accused the organisers of breaching a “timing condition” last year and failing to engage with them.

Former republican internees, including Hooded Men Francie McGuigan and Kevin Hannaway, have given their backing to this weekend’s parade.

A solicitor for the organisers, Michael Brentnall, revealed last night that a legal aid application to challenge the Parades Commission’s decision had been rejected.

He said further legal action is likely.

A separate parade organised by the West Belfast Festival involving up to 2,000 participants and 5,000 supporters is due to start at nearby Conway Street at 1pm.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said the security operation will be “appropriate and proportionate”.