Strong deterrent message needs to be sent to loyalists planning protest parades - Dolores Kelly
A strong deterrent message needs to be sent to loyalists planning to hold illegal protest parades in the coming weeks, SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said last night.
Mrs Kelly spoke out as concerns continue to rise about a resumption of loyalist protests after the funeral of Prince Philip tomorrow.
It had been expected the loyalist bands would take to the streets last weekend but plans were put on hold due to the death of the senior royal.
It is understood that protests could resume this weekend.
Community workers in peace line areas of Belfast will also be on alert as Celtic and Rangers play each other in the Scottish Cup on Sunday.
The Old Firm clash has sparked interface violence in the past.
The recent trouble has been linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Bobby Storey funeral and claims of two tier policing.
Loyalist sources have suggested that an increase in protest band parades will not just highlight overall discontent about the protocol but could also result in a challenge to the long term authority of the Parades Commission.
Mrs Kelly said there needs to be a co-ordinated approach to deter those involved in street violence.
"There is a role for the courts and the Department of Justice to ensure there's a strong message going out - police will enforce this and people will be brought before the courts and face the outcome," she said.
"The message will go out when they have a criminal record and spend a few nights in a cell - it's not so funny."
A spokesman for the Parades Commission last night said illegal parades are a matter for the police.
"The Commission regulates parades and related protests," he said.
"Unnotified parades and related protests are a matter for the PSNI.
“Although the Commission is aware that there have been three unnotified parades recently, the majority of parade organisers continue to notify processions as normal.
"This is particularly welcome given the ongoing responsibility of parade organisers and participants to adhere to Covid-19 Regulations.”
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said the PSNI have the resources to deal with any trouble that may arise.
“We believe that the vast majority of people across Northern Ireland want to see calm continue across all our communities this weekend," he said.
“We have resources and capability in place to address any potential disturbances."
He urged members of the public to be mindful of the regulations.
“I would appeal to anyone who is considering organising a gathering to be mindful of the current Health Protection Regulations and the risks of successfully managing large numbers of people in public spaces," he said.
"I would also ask all of those with influence in communities to continue to engage and work with us to maintain calm and ensure safe spaces for all."