Police probe threat to break Belfast anti-internment parade rules

There has been trouble at previous anti-internment parades in Belfast city centre
There has been trouble at previous anti-internment parades in Belfast city centre

The PSNI is seeking clarity over a threat published on social media to break a Parades Commission determination on a contentious republican march in Belfast this weekend.

Sunday’s anti internment parade – which is due to start in Ardoyne, parade into the city centre and then up the Falls Road – has been classed as “sensitive” in a Parades Commission ruling.

While the determination stipulates that “the parade in its entirety shall have passed the Divis/Millfield junction on its notified route no later than 1.30pm”, parade organisers on social media appear to call for supporters to break the determination.

They say: “The Anti Internment League ask all republicans, nationalists and human rights advocates to join with us in opposing internment by remand, by revocation of licence and through miscarriage of justice by assembling at Ardoyne Avenue at 2pm on Sunday 9th August. The days of ‘croppy lie down’ are over, let the State militia of the PSNI and British Army try to stop us.”

However, last night Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “There has been significant speculation in the media recently that the parade may not comply with the conditions imposed in the Parades Commission’s determination.

“We are seeking confirmation from the organisers as to whether this speculation is well-founded, and whether statements attributed to them are correct.”

He added: “It is a matter of choice to break the law or breach lawful determinations. It is not inevitable that this will occur on Sunday, neither is violence and disorder.

“I am urging the organisers and people taking part in parading or protesting on Sunday to be responsible and ensure their behaviour is peaceful and within the law.”

Serious trouble erupted at another anti-internment parade in Belfast two years ago where 56 police officers were injured.

According to the determination 14 bands, 5,000 participants and 4,000 supporters will be involved and three loyalist counter protests have been organised.

ACC Martin added: “Following a request from the DUP, the PSNI has agreed to meet with representatives and listen to their views and concerns regarding Sunday’s anti-internment parade.”

He said that “an appropriate and proportionate policing operation will be put in place to ensure, as far as possible, that this determination is upheld, as we do for all parades”.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland said he hoped to ask the PSNI to account for their progress of prosecutions at republican parades, including the INLA parade in Londonderry last month, potential prosecutions from a republican parade in Castlederg in 2013 and their plans “for policing on Sunday and whether the parade should be allowed into the city centre after social media requests for participants to circumvent the Parades Commission determination”.

North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly called for the Parades Commission determination to be “respected by all” on Sunday.

Mr McCausland cautioned that if Parades Commission determinations “are enforced on the loyal orders they have to be enforced with regard to dissidents”.

He said the wording of the statement which “threatens to take on the police and the army” is an attempt for them “to get their own way”.