An application for a massive loyalist protest in Belfast city centre on one of the busiest shopping days of the year has been submitted, just days after an almost identical one was dramatically withdrawn.
The Loyal Peaceful Protestors have applied to march through the centre of the city on November 30, to mark the first anniversary of the flag being removed from the city hall to fly on designated days only.
There were pleas from traders to cancel the parade, an application for which was originally submitted earlier this month, as fears grew business would be affected in the run-up to Christmas.
The News Letter reported on Tuesday that that application, to walk along Donegall Place, Royal Avenue, North Street, Shankill Road and Tennent Street from 2pm until 4pm, was withdrawn at the weekend.
But a spokeswoman for the Parades Commission said an application from a group of the same name was submitted again on Tuesday night.
The initial application asked for 5,000 participants and 40 bands to be permitted to take part, but the most recent application adds 5,000 supporters.
The parade is due to gather at the City Hall at 1pm and leave at 2pm, taking the same route as the previous application and again ending at 4pm.
A spokesman for organisers behind the current application, due to be considered by the Parades Commission on November 19, said they did not submit the earlier application.
The man, who did not wish to be named, said: “The other application that was put in - we were only made aware of that on Monday. It was not put in by us. We have no idea who was behind that.”
The organiser also refuted claims from city centre traders that business could be negatively affected by the march.
He said: “Look at our last parade - it was peaceful and dignified.”
He claimed trade “was up” on that Saturday, September 21 and said he did not believe it would have a “knock-on effect on trade” in the city centre.
“This is just ordinary people making their voices heard, and they have a right to do that. This is not just about the flag, it is about police brutality against the PUL (Protestant loyalist Unionist) community and how disgusted we are at how our parades are being treated.”
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chair Glyn Roberts said a march at this time of year is the last thing businesses need.
“I would be interested to see what figures the organisation is referring to,” he said. “Traders had an extremely difficult time of it last year and the last thing they need is a difficult Christmas.
“We (NIIRTA) are not making a judgement about the issues they (Loyal Peaceful Protestors) are raising, but we would urge these people to call this (the parade) off and engage with Richard Haass to find a resolution.
“This is creating a perception of ‘Steer clear of Belfast city centre’.”