Police should be dealing with dissident republican parades using anti-terror legislation and not parading laws, according to a senior figure in the Orange Order.
Rev Mervyn Gibson, grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, was speaking after concerns were raised about a number of dissident republican parades in recent days.
People wearing military-style outfits and sunglasses with scarves partially covering their faces marched from the Bogside to the City Cemetery in Londonderry on Monday in the Saoradh National Easter Commemoration parade.
A small number of people wearing military garb and sunglasses with scarves partially covering their faces also walked through the Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan on Saturday.
Rev Gibson said of the two parades: “It is anti-terrorist legislation that should be used to deal with that. There must be legislation to address such issues.
“If you look like a terrorist and act like a terrorist you should be dealt with like a terrorist.”
He added that there are also laws prohibiting the glorification of terrorism.
“This is beyond the Parades Commission. The efforts put into investigating somebody playing a flute is completely disproportionate by comparison. So let’s see how they deal with this.
“There are people being prosecuted on an almost monthly basis for allegedly breaking Parades Commission rules.”
In the past year, such prosecutions have been in “double figures” he added.
A spokesman for the Parades Commission said: “The commission’s statutory code of conduct explicitly states that no paramilitary-style clothing is to be worn anytime during a public procession. Investigation of any breaches during a parade are a matter for the PSNI.”
Asked to respond to Rev Gibson, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “A proportionate and appropriate policing operation is implemented for all parades.
“The PSNI will review all evidence gathered and where offences are identified, will present reports to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to holding individuals to account.”
Police always take into account the offence and apply appropriate legislation in consultation with the PPS, she added.