Trouble after halting of anti-internment march ‘inexcusable’

Two people charged over disturbances that followed nationalist parade in Belfast


A senior figure in Northern Ireland policing has criticised the disturbances that followed the halting of an Anti Internment League (AIL) parade in Belfast on Sunday.

Nine police officers were injured after they stopped the contentious republican march from entering Belfast city centre.

The halting of the parade in a nationalist area in the north of the city passed off without incident on Sunday afternoon. However, officers were forced to deploy water cannon an hour later when a crowd of republicans threw petrol bombs, stones and bottles at them.

A man and woman have been charged in relation to the trouble that followed.

“The violence directed against the PSNI after the AIL parade is inexcusable and I trust that the nine officers injured make a speedy recovery,” Debbie Watters, vice chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said.

Ms Watters said the failure of the organisers “to engage in dialogue with the police on plans was very disappointing”.

“Dialogue is critical in dealing with the issue of parades and protests and without engagement the planning for the operation was made more challenging for the police,” she said. “The violence after the parade cannot be justified in any way and must be condemned by all.”

A 36-year-old woman has been charged with riotous behaviour, four counts of assault on police, resisting police and obstructing police.

A 53-year-old man has been charged with common assault and disorderly behaviour.

The woman is due to appear in Belfast Magistrates’ Court later while the man is due in the same court on September 4th.

Two other men, aged 21 and 24, arrested on Sunday remain in police custody.

The parade had originally been granted permission by the Parades Commission to pass through the city centre, but only before 1.30pm. The restriction was imposed by the Stormont-appointed adjudication body to minimise disruption to city life.

In previous years the parade has proceeded through the city. Last year there were minor disturbances at the controversial event but in 2013 almost 60 police officers were injured when loyalist protesters rioted.

When the 1.30pm deadline passed, the parade had not even left its designated start point in the nationalist Ardoyne area. Police commanders announced that it would be halted.

As loyalist counter protests in the city centre dispersed, police rolled out a huge security operation to stop the march on the Oldpark Road around 4km away.

Parade participants, including a number of bands, marched up to the police cordon. They held a rally for around 30 minutes, with speeches, cheering and music. At the conclusion organisers urged people to disperse peacefully. The parade turned and went back up the Oldpark Road without incident.

However, an hour later trouble broke out in the area where the parade had been stopped.

The now annual march is organised to mark the introduction of internment without trial by the Stormont administration, with the support of the UK Government, during the height of the Troubles in August 1971.

The controversial policy of detaining terrorist suspects without trial ended in 1975. However, the parade organisers — the Anti-Internment League — allege it is still effectively operated by the state authorities in the present day.

Additional reporting - PA