Bobby Storey-Irish Sea Border protest parades by loyalists planned for this weekend

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A range of protest parades are planned across Northern Ireland for the weekend, with one source claiming there will be a “major” emphasis on a peaceful approach.

Grassroots protests have sprung up across NI in the wake of a decision not to prosecute any republicans for potential breaches of Covid regulations at the funeral of former IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast last June. Street protestors have also cited anger at the ongoing Irish Sea customs border.

However some protests resulted in rioting and deliberate attacks on police, with the PSNI saying 100 officers were injured from March 31 to April 19.

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Protest parades in Markethill and Glengormley on Wednesday both passed off peacefully but police videoed participants with a view to prosecutions for breaches of parading legislation - neither got approval from the Parades Commission - and for breaches of Covid regulations.

The protest parade in Markethill on Wednesday just past.The protest parade in Markethill on Wednesday just past.
The protest parade in Markethill on Wednesday just past.

The LCC has repeatedly appealed for “only peaceful and democratic protests” to take place, a call echoed by all unionist political parties.

A well placed source advises that there are to be seven protests on Friday and Saturday this weekend, the most significant of which will be at Moygashel, Larne, Antrim Town and Ballymena.

“There seems to be a low-level co-ordination, but it is organic as opposed to being led or driven from one source,” he said. “There is a major emphasis on a peaceful approach.”

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It is understood that all seven are taking place without recourse to the Parades Commission which, if true, means all participants could face prosecution, again, on parading and Covid grounds.

Markethill protestant Boys Flute have been given authorisation for their annual parade on Saturday, however the Parades Commission has advised organisers that they should engage with authorities about Covid requirements, which it said are a police matter.

It is understood the PSNI has advised that all participants will be fined for Covid breaches; Executive guidance has only allowed “static band practise” from Friday April 23 and this only in “agreed outdoor locations”.

Chief Insp Barney O’Connor said they had spoken with the Markethill band. “A discussion took place with an organiser to outline the current Health Protection Regulations,” he added.

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