PSNI call for calm ahead of anti internment parade

Anti Internment League from Facebook
Anti Internment League from Facebook

The PSNI have appealed for calm ahead of todays Anti-Internment parade in Belfast.

The Anti-Internment League’s parade has been given the go-ahead from the Parades Commission with the condition that it leaves the city centre by no later than 1.30pm.

However organisers have said they are planning to begin the event from Ardoyne in north Belfast around an hour later, at 2.30pm.

In a statement Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “As in previous years, the PSNI are committed to ensuring that we keep people safe and that the parade and associated protests pass off peacefully.

“On this occasion the Parades Commission has exercised its statutory functions and decided to impose certain conditions on the parade.

“I am very much aware that there is significant speculation in the media and online that the parade may not comply with the conditions imposed in the Parades Commission’s determination.”

ACC Martin said over “the past number of days we have tried to liaise with parade organisers”. “At this time we are still seeking confirmation from them as to whether this speculation is well-founded, and whether statements attributed to them are correct,” he added.

“I am again urging the organisers, or a representative speaking on their behalf, to engage with us,” he said.

“We welcome the opportunity for positive engagement with all interested parties, but particularly in this instance I believe it is essential that parade organisers step forward in order to ensure that the concerns and tensions within the wider community can be addressed.”

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

“We are aware of heightened tensions across the city and I would appeal for calm and urge organisers and people taking part in parading or protesting today to be responsible and ensure their behaviour is peaceful and within the law.”

Loyalist groups have applied for three counter protests along the route.

But the Parades Commission has limited numbers for each of those to 150.

The parade marks the introduction of internment without trial by the Stormont administration, with the support of the UK Government, during the height of the Troubles in August 1971.

The controversial policy of detaining terrorist suspects without trial ended in 1975. However, the parade organisers - the Anti-Internment League - allege it is still effectively operated by the state authorities in the present day.

Last year there were minor disturbances at the event but in 2013 almost 60 police officers were injured when loyalist protesters rioted in the city centre.

Loyalists have expressed anger that the parade passes the location where two UDR soldiers were murdered during the Troubles and have claimed that, in past years, marchers shouted pro-IRA slogans.

James Cummings and Frederick Starrett, who were both 22, were killed by an IRA bomb on Royal Avenue in 1988.