Northern Ireland news

Loyalists planning more protest parades

Loyalists are planning a series of parades across the north later this week
Connla Young

Loyalists are planning to hold a series of protest parades across the north on Friday night.

The demonstrations are due to take place just days after illegal processions were held in several unionist districts earlier this week.

The parades have been organised as part of the ongoing series of protests linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol and a decision not to prosecute and Sinn Féin representatives who attended Bobby Storey's funeral last year.

A series of protests have also been organised at several locations across the north on Saturday, including outside Belfast City Hall.

It was the scene of several demonstrations during the Union flag protests almost a decade ago.

Earlier this week un-notified parades took place in several towns including Ballymena in Co Antrim and Markethill and Portadown in Co Armagh, where masked men were pictured taking part.

East Belfast based loyalist Moore Holmes last night defended people's right to protest.

"People are completely entitled to use their democratic right to protest and I would highlight the fact that there have been a number of protests taking place throughout Northern Ireland and the world for Black Lives matter and George Floyd," he said.

"We are in lockdown but an injustice has taken place and people have a right to protest."

Mr Holmes said more protests will take place and that they remain peaceful.

"There is widespread concern in the community and whether you like it or don't there is going to be protests and it is incumbent on loyalists and loyalist activists to ensure they are non violent and articulate persuasively the message, enough is enough."

Mr Holmes said loyalist communities need political leadership.

"The absence of political unionism taking a lead is creating a vacuum and because of the vacuum the loyalist grass roots is taking action," he said.

A loyalist source said that planned parades are not being centrally organised and urged participants not to notify the Parades Commission.

"This is the best way forward," he said.

"People should go on band parades and have nothing to do with the Parades Commission.

"It's your village, town, housing estate and you should have the right to walk around them."

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