Unionists have called for a robust police response to any illegal paramilitary displays at this weekend’s Easter Rising centenary commemorations.
A large number of parades and related events have been organised by republicans to mark 100 years since the rebellion against the British in Dublin.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said all organisers are required to abide by the laws governing parades.
“Nobody should expect to be excluded or overlooked,” he said.
“If they do have anything on parade that glorifies terror or murder then even submitting an 11/1 [Parades Commission notification] doesn’t give you a bye-ball in respect of that. There are a series of things that apply to everybody else and they apply this weekend as well.”
The DUP MP said it was inevitable that people would compare the approach of the PSNI with their approach to previous breaches of Parades Commission determinations.
He added: “For the police’s sake, as well as for wider society’s sake, there has to be a very strong degree of consistency.”
One of the most contentious republican parades is taking place in Co Tyrone on Sunday.
The Coalisland 2016 Easter Committee Centenary event organisers have notified the Parades Commission that around 2,000 people are expected to take part with a similar number of spectators.
It has been organised by republicans opposed to the current peace process.
The commission highlighted that posters advertising the parade carry the slogan “unfinished revolution,” and the determination document also reminds the organisers that “musical instrument must not bear any inscription or mark of a proscribed organisation, or depict weaponry of any kind”.
Ulster Unionist MLA and Policing Board member Ross Hussey said it would be no surprise to see a display of historic uniforms and weaponry on display, but believed there is the possibility that more recent acts of terrorism will also be glorified at parades in both Carrickmore and Coalisland.
“I have concerns that both will have paramilitary trappings, The police must ensure that the law is upheld and must ensure that if these people decide to go for something that is extreme then the police must act accordingly. But at the same time the police must look after their own security, because I do believe that they are more at risk now than they have been in the past 20 years,” Mr Hussey added.
TUV Castlereagh councillor Andrew Girvin said he would “watch with interest” to see if the law preventing paramilitary displays is enforced.
“Given the robust approach of the powers that be to loyalist and loyal order parades, unionists will watch with interest to see if any paramilitary displays will be dealt with,” he said.
Dissidents republicans were responsible for the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay in Belfast earlier this month, and fears have been expressed that further terrorist attacks will be launched to coincide with the Easter Rising commemorations.
ACC Stephen Martin said the PSNI recognised the commemorations were extremely important to many in the community, and that the police “will adopt an appropriate and proportionate” policing style.
“All actions taken by police, including decisions related to flags and emblems, will be taken in accordance with the law and our overriding human rights obligations.”
ACC Martin added: “We hope that these events, along with the various loyalist parades occurring over the next few days, will pass off lawfully, however we will be engaging in active evidence gathering and if the law is broken or Parades Commission determinations breached, we will investigate.
“The police will continue to take every opportunity to work together with organisers and those attending important events taking place this year to ensure that we continue to keep people safe.”
• John McCallister has defended his decision to help facilitate a 1916 Easter Rising commemoration at Stormont.
The South Down MLA faced fierce criticism on Thursday when the News Letter revealed he was the sole unionist signatory providing Sinn Fein with the necessary cross-community support to host the controversial event on Wednesday.
TUV councillor Henry Reilly said Mr McCallister had been “used” by republicans and that the event should not have been held at Parliament Buildings.
On the Thursday’s BBC Talkback show, Mr Reilly told his politcal rival: “If this had been done in a historical, respectful context the okay...but they have used you to legitimise that physical force tradition of Irish republicanism that they say they are the standard bearers of to this day.
“They used butchery against the UDR, and they used the 1916 Rising as justification for that - and the dissidents that killed the prison officer still use that as justification, so we shouldn’t be glorifying the physical force tradition of the IRA.”
Mr McCallister responded saying “Parliament Buildings should be open to all.”
He added: “It is not particularly an event that I commemorate, or is important to me, but it is important to thousands of people.
“There is a slight irony that you are holding an Easter Rising commemoration in a devolved assembly within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“A few months ago I hosted an event for the UDR Association. Not everyone shares my view of the narrative of what role the UDR played in Northern Ireland’s history, but I needed a nationalist MLA to sign that form.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr McCallister said: I’m a unionist and a monarchist. Precisely because of this, I have no qualms about being a signatory for this event.
“Unionism has to call republicans out on the myth that Northern Ireland is not a fair society, embracing all political traditions.”
TUV leader Jim Allister had branded Mr McCallister’s decision inappropriate as the 1916 rebellion has been used “and continues to be used to justify the IRA campaign and ongoing republican terrorism”.