Northern Ireland news

Anti-internment parade banned from Belfast city centre

Dee Fennell
Connla Young

The Parades Commission has banned a controversial anti-internment march from passing through Belfast city centre this weekend.

The Anti-internment League (AIL) last night confirmed the planned parade has now been called off and a rally will instead be held at Belfast City Hall.

The organisers had wanted to march from Writer’s Square, along Royal Avenue to Donegall Place for a rally outside Belfast city hall before returning via Castle Street, Divis Street and the Falls Road.

They say up to 1,000 people and three bands were expected to take part.

However, the Parades Commission has banned the march from the city centre saying it must now start at Divis Street before making its way to the Falls.

An anti-internment parade in 2013 ended in violence when loyalists clashed with police

A similar parade though the city centre last year passed off peacefully.

Prior to that the annual march had been stopped from entering the city centre since 2015.

Loyalists have previously held protests along the route of the parade and in 2013 there was violence at Royal Avenue when they clashed with police.

In its ruling the Parades Commission said notification of the parade was “extremely late” and described this as a “serious concern”.

Although no counter protests have been notified to the commission it said it had “received substantial objections to the parade”.

It said: “Most objections are based on the perceptions that the parade organisers and participants do not support peaceful political means to achieve their objectives and their presence in Belfast city centre is provocative and hurtful to victims and their families, and to the wider community”.

It “concluded that the potential impacts of the parade on community relations are adverse, and that there is a high potential for public disorder”.

AIL spokesman Dee Fennell last night said the ruling was not unexpected.

“This attempt to ban republicans once again from our streets was anticipated and, as discussed and agreed by organisers, will be resisted,” he said.

“Republicans will not be excluded from an area that regularly plays host to marches by loyalist paramilitaries, Loyal Orders and the British Crown Forces.”

He said the decision to hold a protest at city hall does not have to be notified to the Parades Commission.

“The Anti Internment League hereby give notice that we will not adhere to state restrictions on our right to assembly, to protest and to political expression,” he said.

“We withdraw our intention to march to and from City Hall, and instead we shall assemble there and demonstrate our opposition to internment and our support for republican prisoners.”

Solicitor Michael Brentnall, of Brentneall Legal, said he has been instructed to request a review of the decision.

“This decision by the commission is a flagrant breach of our client’s article 10 rights ( of European Convention on Human Rights), in that they have been essentially banned from marching through the city centre based on mere perceptions that ‘the parade organisers and participants do not support peaceful means," he said

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