Northern Ireland news

Loyalist 'band parade' involving masked men condemned

Videos and images of the parade were shared widely on social media

A loyalist parade through Portadown last night was akin to scenes seen in east Belfast, it has been claimed.

The unofficial parade was accompanied by masked men.

There have been claims that there will be more marches in the coming days.

Videos and images of the parade were shared widely on social media last night.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said the images of masked loyalists parading through streets in Portadown was "more akin to the scenes witnessed recently in Pitt Park in east Belfast" rather than a band parade as claimed.

Police made several arrests after a large group of men gathered in the Pitt Park area on February 2 during an incident described as a UVF show of strength.

"Tonight's so-called band parade in Portadown was led by masked men through the streets reminiscent of the scenes recently in Pitt Park in east Belfast," Mr O'Dowd said.

"Irresponsible and dangerous sabre rattling and reckless rhetoric from unionist politicians has seen tensions rise right across the community.

"Their engagement with armed criminal gangs involved in murder, drug dealing, extortion and intimidation has emboldened these criminals to attack and injure members of the police and put the wider community at risk."

Mr O'Dowd appealed for calm and called on those in positions of influence in political unionism "to demonstrate more measured and responsible leadership before someone is killed or seriously injured by loyalist criminal gangs".

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Northern Ireland news