Northern Ireland

Major disorder avoided as PSNI keep distance at Derry dissident parade

PSNI use drones to issue warning over unnotified Creggan parade

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A masked colour party has taken part in an unnotified Easter Rising anniversary parade in Derry (Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye/Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye )

Serious disorder was avoided at an unnotified Easter Monday parade which included a masked colour party after police stayed out of the republican Creggan district of Derry.

Unlike previous years the PSNI had no visible presence on the ground during the contentious annual parade on Monday to mark the 108th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

A colour party with members dressed in combat style clothing, including berets and sun glasses, led several hundred people from the Creggan shops area at Central Drive to the City Cemetery for short commemoration.

The annual Easter Monday event was organised by the Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee, which has the support of anti-agreement party Saoradh.

Traditionally the organisers of the Derry parade do not notify the Parades Commission of their intention to march despite a legal requirement to do so.

Masked youths carrying crates of petrol bombs and other missiles also made their way along the route, which was lined with various flags and republican symbols, including ‘IRA’ letting.

During similar parades in recent years PSNI vehicles were attacked by young people throwing petrol bombs.

However, this year the PSNI stayed out of the district and instead policed the parade from the air.

In an unusual move, a drone fitted with loudspeakers issued a verbal warning to members of the public who had gathered at Central Drive before the parade began.

A PSNI helicopter also circled the republican district as the parade got under way shortly after 2pm.

While the parade itself passed off without major incident youths later gathered at a roundabout close to St Mary’s Church before moving off.

A van was later burnt out in Central Drive close to a community hall, and according to police a number of other petrol bombs were thrown.

It has been reported that several journalists were also targeted in a petrol bomb attack after being chased by a group of youths, although it is understood no-one was injured.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan condemned the incident as “outrageous”, adding: “The media have every right, indeed a professional duty, to report on public events like today’s commemorations, on behalf of the public. That they should come under physical attack for doing so by people in masks is deeply sinister.”

As the evening continued, roadworks barricades were placed in the road at Central Drive and set alight.

A PSNI drone was also spotted over the Bogside area on Monday evening.

During the earlier commemoration in the grounds of the City Cemetery the proclamation was read out, a lament was played and wreaths laid.

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan was critical of the violence.

“What happened in Creggan today is disgraceful but depressingly unsurprising,” he said.

“Huge efforts have been made by community representatives and, it must be said, the police to minimise disruption and destruction.

“Today’s events certainly can’t be blamed on ‘the crown forces’ but on those who have encouraged, equipped and orchestrated young people to wreak havoc.

“The Creggan community has suffered enough and should not be subjected to this every year.”

PSNI Chief Superintendent Gillian Kearney said that police received an 11-1 notification, which is required by law when a public procession is taking place, on Saturday in relation to an event in the City Cemetery, but this did not include the parade from Central Drive.

“Police engaged with the event organiser and, on the day, issued several warnings from a drone to make participants aware they would be taking part in an un-notified parade on Central Drive,” she said.

“Despite several warnings, participants proceeded along Central Drive and into the City Cemetery.”

Ms Kearney said police saw petrol bombs being prepared young people prior to the parade adding “these would have been used to attack police had the opportunity arose”.

The Easter Monday dissident republican parade makes its way from the Creggan area to the City Cemetery in Derry. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 1-4-2024
Police used a speaking drone to warn those gathered below about the illegal parade PICTURE: MARGARET McLAUGHLIN

The senior PSNI woman said it was “sad” and “disheartening to see young people, including children, involved in this”.

She added that an investigation has now been launched.

“Today’s parade was un-notified and therefore an investigation has commenced into what occurred as well as the other incidents which serve only to damage the local community,” she said.

“Footage obtained from our evidence gathering operation today will be reviewed as part of an investigation into a breach of the Public Processions Act and offences Under the Terrorism Act 2000.”