Anti-internment parade passes off peacefully

Lorraine Taylor who was the guest speaker at the Anti -Internment parade yesterday in North Queen Street, Belfast.  Picture by Ann McManus.
Lorraine Taylor who was the guest speaker at the Anti -Internment parade yesterday in North Queen Street, Belfast. Picture by Ann McManus.

AN anti-internment parade banned from going through Belfast city centre passed off peacefully yesterday.

It was one of three controversial marches held in Belfast to pass off without major incident following an order from the Parades Commission to keep them apart.

Several hundred people took part in the republican parade which was organised by the Anti-internment League (AIL) amid a large security operation.

The route of the parade, which included three bands, was blocked by PSNI Land Rovers and officers in riot gear at the entrance of Clifton House North Queen Street yesterday afternoon.

It had earlier travelled from Ardoyne to North Queen Street through the Cliftonville Road, Antrim Road and New Lodge districts.

Organisers had originally planned to bring up to 5,000 people and five bands through the city centre on to mark the 46th anniversary of the introduction of internment and highlight what they describe as ‘internment by remand’ but were banned by the Parades Commission.

A revised route through Carrick Hill and Millfield, which would have avoided the city centre, was also banned.

A short rally was held when the parade reached police lines which was chaired by AIL spokesman Dee Fennell and included an address by Lorraine Taylor whose husband Tony is currently detained in jail without charge.

Mrs Taylor said the jailing of her husband has "devastated" her entire family.

Tony Taylor was returned to prison last March after his early release licence was revoked by then secretary of state Theresa Villiers.

A former republican prisoner, the Derry man was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 1994 for IRA activity and for three years in 2011 for possession of a rifle.

Parole chiefs recently rejected a bid by him to be released from Maghaberry Prison.

Mrs Taylor told those attending that her husband has told her he is “committed to the process of the transition to a peaceful society”.

“And that view was clearly shared by the numerous people who spoke up for him in his parole hearing recently - including clergy, politicians, community and trade union mediators and human rights organisations ,” she said.

“The decision not to let him out was at best underhand.

“It was based on a secret submission to the hearing by the secret services, a submission that Tony could neither hear not challenge.”

Meanwhile, a ‘Northern Ireland Against Terrorism’ rally attended by far-right group Britain First outside Belfast city hall also passed off without serious incident.

Several senior members including leader Paul Golding, spoke at the event which was partly organised by independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting.

A separate parade organised by Loyal People’s Protest was also banned from Royal Avenue by the Parades Commission and supporters of the group were due to hold a short rally outside city hall.

A counter demonstration organised by ‘Belfast Says No to Fascism' took place nearby.

Spokesman Davy McAuley said those attending made their point.

“It was loud, colourful and passionate - that gave them the message there were not welcome there,” he said.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, who attended the rally, said “it was very important” for people to hold a counter protest.

Police later confirmed that one person was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour.