Masked men should be behind bars: Foster

A Republican Sinn Fein commemorative march makes its way from the Kilwilkee estate to St Colemans Cemetery. Photo: Kevin Scott / Presseye
A Republican Sinn Fein commemorative march makes its way from the Kilwilkee estate to St Colemans Cemetery. Photo: Kevin Scott / Presseye

The masked paramilitaries who took part in a number of Easter Rising commemorations at the weekend should be “behind bars”, the first minister has said.

Arlene Foster was commenting after dissident republicans paraded in Coalisland, Belfast and Lurgan – and police were attacked at a number of locations.

“I’ve spoken with Assistant Chief Constable Martin about the deeply concerning and illegal displays by masked men on Sunday and continued violence,” she tweeted.

“I want to see these people behind bars. No place for masked men in Northern Ireland. Police assure me that evidence has been gathered.”

Mrs Foster’s DUP colleague Carla Lockhart described Saturday’s parade - from the Kilwilkie estate to St Coleman’s Cemetery - as “deeply concerning”.

Councillor Lockhart said she had also spoken with the PSNI.

“It is very worrying to see masked men walking through the streets of Lurgan,” she said.

On Sunday around 50 people in paramilitary-style uniforms led a parade associated with dissident republicans through Coalisland.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said on Monday: “In policing all events over the Easter weekend our over-riding desire is to ensure that commemorative occasions, parades and protests pass off lawfully and peacefully. Our focus, is on keeping communities safe and our job, with a few notable exceptions, has been made that much easier because of the responsible attitude of all parties concerned.

“We are however, investigating suspected breaches of Parades Commission determinations in Coalisland and un-notified processions in Ardoyne and Lurgan. We have gathered evidence at these events and will present reports to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to holding individuals accountable.”

ACC Martin added: “Large numbers of people have attended events, in many locations, the vast majority of whom have done so in a spirit of historical commemoration.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said a number of incidents over the weekend “vindicated” his party’s position that “no unionist should have anything to do with events to mark the Easter Rising”.

He said: “With masked men parading the streets of our Province, a war memorial dishonoured by the erection of a huge Irish tricolour across it and an advert paid for by public money in local papers in Donegal glorifying the actions of Provo terrorists alongside the rebels of 1916, we have had confirmation of what we suspected would happen.”

On Monday night, Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said those attacking the PSNI were “desperate people locked in a time warp”.

Mr Lindsay said: They are not serving their cause one iota. All they are doing is delivering upset, inconvenience and misery to people who want to see the back of them.

“Those throwing petrol bombs and engaging in minor street disturbances think they are advancing some cause but the reality is they have nothing but empty rhetoric and outdated slogans to offer.”