The Parades Commission has been accused of being “part of the problem, rather than the solution” after giving the go-ahead for dissident republicans to confront a veterans’ protest in Belfast.
Only a matter of feet will separate the demonstrations on Good Friday after the commission ruled to allow a Saoradh parade to take place in the same location and at the same time as a rally by Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans.
A DUP delegation met with Chief Superintendent Chris Noble – commander in charge of Belfast City District Command Unit – yesterday to discuss the dissident protest which they believe is intended solely to create tension.
The delegation was led by North Belfast MLA William Humphrey who was accompanied by Christopher Stalford MLA, Joanne Bunting MLA and Alderman Frank McCoubrey.
They believe the commission’s decision to allow the protests to come within such close proximity of each other was “another failure” on their part.
Mr Humphrey said: “This was a useful and constructive discussion with the police, who have the task of implementing the Parades Commission determination.
“We have put forward a number of suggestions to the police, but the real failure lies with the Parades Commission who have once again demonstrated they are part of the problem with parades and protests rather than part of the solution.
“It is clear that the dissident republican protest has been designed solely to increase tensions yet will be allowed a very short distance from the veterans’ demonstration and is due to disperse at the same time.”
The veterans’ protest will take place directly in front of Belfast City Hall between 11am and noon while the dissident counter-protest planned to march to city hall to confront the veterans at 11am.
The Parades Commission ruled instead the parade could come no further than the traffic lights at the top of Donegall Place, meaning a road’s breadth in front of city hall would divide the factions.
The DUP MLA added: “It is vital that the veterans are allowed to hold their demonstration to highlight the campaign that has been gaining momentum right across the United Kingdom.
“Alongside that we want to see the city centre remain open for trade and normal business to continue without disruption from dissident republicans.
“I would encourage people to show their support for the veterans’ demonstration, but it is absolutely vital that everyone coming into the city centre does so peacefully and within the law.”