‘High risk’ with three Belfast parades on same day

A poster promoting the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally planned for Belfast City Hall on Sunday
A poster promoting the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally planned for Belfast City Hall on Sunday

Three major parades in Belfast this Sunday – with potential crowds of over 15,000 – present high risks of public disorder and an adverse impact on community relations, the Parades Commission has said.

The Anti Internment League, Loyal People’s Protest and Northern Ireland Against Terrorism parades have all notified the Parades Commission of their intent to parade.

The commission said it had reflected upon “the volatile and fluid situation” which may occur on Sunday and concluded that the risks may only be managed by route restrictions.

It added: “Each of the three parades, as judged on its own merits, is controversial and presents high risks of public disorder, adverse impacts on community relations, and a disproportionate interference with the rights of others. The risks of the events seeking to access the same space around the same time are significant.”

The commission has directed that the republican Anti Internment League parade, which applied for 5,000 participants on a route from north Belfast to west Belfast via Royal Avenue, may not proceed beyond North Queen Street.

“This parade, which resulted in public disorder in 2013 and 2015, was also restricted last year,” it said.

The Loyal People’s Protest which has “a history of protesting against republican parades”, applied for 10,000 participants on a route from City Hall to Royal Avenue and may not proceed beyond Donegall Square West.

The Northern Ireland Against Terrorism parade, which the commission said is believed to involve members of Britain First, expects an ‘unknown’ number of participants along its route from City Hall to Castle Street junction with Royal Avenue. It may not assemble at the front of city hall but will instead assemble at, and proceed along, Donegall Square East.

Independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting rejected claims that the rally, which she is helping to organise, will promote a “very dangerous” far right ideology.

The restrictions are primarily required to mitigate the high risks of public disorder, and to avoid the potential closure of the city centre for a prolonged period of time, the commission said.

In its consideration the commission said it gave due weight to the rights of freedoms of expression and assembly as balanced against the competing rights of others.

The parades may not attract the numbers of participants applied for, it added.