Organisers should re-route internment rally

No sooner has Belfast seen one contentious march pass off than another controversial parade looms, bringing with it heightened tension and fears of disorder.

The loyalist parade along the Ormeau Road last Friday night all too predictably flouted Parades Commission rules on the display of paramilitary regalia with UFF flags and UDA images and tributes fully evident on the route.

This blatant defiance cannot be left unchallenged and the lawful authorities must take a firm stand.

But now concerns are being expressed about an anti-internment rally planned for Belfast city centre on Sunday.

A similar march led to appalling violence in Royal Avenue in 2013 when loyalist protesters flooded Royal Avenue and attacked police. Intense security had to be put in place for the same event last year which was accompanied by increased tension.

This year, organising group the Anti-Internment League have said they will defy a Parades Commission restriction on the time the rally has to leave the city centre.

Given the past record of this march and the fact that hundreds of loyalist protesters have been allowed to gather on the route, the potential for trouble is clearly high.

The considerable disruption to trading in this busy shopping area is another factor against the march.

Such parades have an inevitable chill factor for both local people and visitors and place considerable strain on police resources.

As we have said before, it would be in the best interests of the wider community for the organisers to voluntarily re-route this parade and stay in areas where they have support.