Anti-internment parade given Belfast city centre go-ahead

AIL spokesman Dee Fennel has welcomed a decision by the parades commission to allow an anti-internment parade through Belfast city centre later this month
Connla Young

A CONTROVERSIAL anti-internment parade that has been banned from Belfast city centre for the past three years has been given the go-ahead.

The Anti-Internment League (AIL) march is expected to take place next Saturday, August 11.

The event has been organised to coincide with the 47th anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

The parade will march from Writer's Square on Donegall Street at 1.15pm to Belfast City Hall, via Royal Avenue and Donegall Place and Donegall Square North, where an address will be given.

Up to 1,000 people and four bands were expected to take part. However in a determination issued yesterday by the Parades Commission the number of participants was restricted to 500.

The annual parade had been stopped from entering the city centre since 2015.

Those taking part later this month have been told to disperse at Donegall Square North no later than 2pm.

They have also been told the parade may congregate for speeches only on a pavement to the west side of Donegall Square North.

AIL spokesman Dee Fennell last night welcomed the decision but said he was disappointed that numbers were being restricted.

“The determination is a common sense determination, Belfast city centre is the only true shared space in Belfast and if it's open for other campaigns then the city centre should also be accessible for those who wish to campaign against internment,” he said.

Unlike previous years no loyalist protests have been notified to the Parades Commission.

In its determination the commission said it was aware of a weekly loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall that coincide with the parade and said it “has considered the possibility” for opponents of the parade to join the flag protest.

“In reaching this decision, the commission has considered the fundamental rights of citizens to exercise freedoms of assembly and expression at Belfast city centre in balance with the competing rights of others, and in full consideration of the potential impacts of the parades on community relations and community life, and the potential risks of public order,” the commission said.

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