Republican parade and counter-demonstration pass off peacefully

Marchers in period dress carried replica weapons. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

Marchers in period dress carried replica weapons. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

Police have praised the organisers of a republican parade and a loyalist protest, after both events passed off without incident in Belfast today.

Newly-formed republican group, Aontacht, organised the parade in Belfast city centre to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Billy Dickson leads a service before a wreath was laid  by Audrey Harvey in memory of UDR soldiers, Fredrick Starrett and James Cummings. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

Billy Dickson leads a service before a wreath was laid by Audrey Harvey in memory of UDR soldiers, Fredrick Starrett and James Cummings. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

The group, which takes its name from the Irish word for unity, was founded after a similar parade in 2016.

A loyalist counter-protest was held on Royal Avenue, close to the location where UDR soldiers, Fredrick Starrett and James Cummings were killed by an IRA bomb in 1988.

Protestors held a memorial service and wreath laying ceremony in memory of the soldiers before the parade made its way to Royal Avenue.

Marchers made their way from the New Lodge area, through the city centre to Divis Street, where a commemorative plaque was unveiled.

Participants in the Aontacht parade. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

Participants in the Aontacht parade. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

Both the parade and loyalist protest took place amid a heavy police presence.

A spokesperson for the Aontacht said: “Aontacht would like to thank our members and supporters for the dignified parade that took place today.

“It is important that Ireland’s second city honours the men and women of the 1916 Easter Rising. We acknowledge that the parade went off peacefully and that the counter-protest was well stewarded. We hope that further commemorations are as peaceful as this one.”

Thanking the parade organisers and the protestors for their cooperation, a police spokesperson said: “The parade and associated protest in Belfast city centre both passed off peacefully and without incident.

Marchers make their way through Belfast. Pic by Freddie Parkinson/ Press Eye.

Marchers make their way through Belfast. Pic by Freddie Parkinson/ Press Eye.

“Police are thankful to the organisers of both for their cooperation and for the responsible and respectful conduct of parade participants and protestors.”

Welcoming the peaceful outcome, PUP leader, Cllr Billy Hutchinson said: “If people are going to protest, they need to do it peacefully and realise that you get credit if you do it in that way. It is good for protests to happen in a democratic society. Today went really well and the people who were there protesting should be praised.”

The parade passed the location where UDR soldiers, Fredrick Starrett and James Cummings were killed. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.

The parade passed the location where UDR soldiers, Fredrick Starrett and James Cummings were killed. Pic by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye.