Anti-internment parade banned from Belfast city centre

Anti-internment parade in Belfast city centre in 2018
Anti-internment parade in Belfast city centre in 2018
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A controversial anti-internment parade has been banned from Belfast city centre amid concerns that it could spark violence.

The Anti-Internment League (AIL) march is expected to take place on Saturday to mark the 48th anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

The organisers had intended to march from Writer’s Square on Donegall Street at 1pm to Belfast City Hall, followed by a return leg to Falls Road via Royal Avenue, Castle Stree and Divis Street.

Up to 1,000 people and three bands are expected to take part.

However, in a determination issued by the Parades Commission, the dissident republican march has been restricted from entering the city centre.

The organisers have been told to assemble instead at Divis Street and march to the notified dispersal point at Falls Road.

While the parade was originally intended to last for three hours, ending at 4pm, the commission stressed it must disperse no later than 2.30pm.

Explaining its decision, the commission said it had concluded that allowing the parade to proceed through the city centre would carry a “high potential for public disorder”.

In its determination, the parades body expressed concerns that the organisers had submitted their notification for the event just eight days in advance, which it said contributed to “heightened tensions”.

“This combined with risks posed by organisers refusal to engage with the commission, raises concerns about intention to hold peaceful and lawful parade,” it added.

The commission also said the organisers had failed to explain the reason for the longer duration of the outward leg of the parade from Writer’s Square to City Hall (two hours compared to last year’s 45 minutes).

Further, the commission said it had received “substantial objections” to this year’s parade, “much greater” than last year.

It continued: “Most objections are based on the perception that the parade organisers and participants do not support peaceful political means to achieve their objectives. and that their presence in Belfast city centre is provocative and hurtful to victims and their families.”

DUP Oldpark Councillor Dale Pankhurst said he was “absolutely delighted” that the parade had been prohibited from passing through the city centre.

“A victory for common sense and the good people of Belfast,” he added.

Last year marked the first time in four years that the AIL had been permitted to hold a protest march in the centre of Belfast. Despite a number of verbal exchanges between loyalist protestors and some republicans, last year’s event passed without any violence.

Serious violence flared when the march was first held in Belfast city centre back in 2013, and there was further trouble at the event in 2014.

The march was stopped by police at Oldpark Road in 2015 after it breached a determination by the Parades Commission over its timing, which led to more violence as petrol bombs, stones and bottles were thrown at officers.

The parade was banned from entering the city centre in 2016 and 2017,