Loyalist parade passes off peacefully

Loyalist parade passes off peacefully

More than 3,000 people have taken part in a loyalist parade in Belfast, which passed off without incident amid a strong police presence on Saturday afternoon.

The march, which started in Belfast city centre, was organised by a group calling itself Loyal Peaceful Protestors.

Police estimate numbers went up to about 3,000 throughout the afternoon, with about 1,000 people initially gathering at City Hall.

The Parades Commission had placed a time restriction on the parade, determining that it had to leave City Hall by 12.30pm and pass the junction of Royal Avenue and North Street by 1pm.

Protestors, however, had applied to leave the area by 2pm.

UTV reporter Peter Cardwell said that a large number of protestors remained in the area past the set dispersal time.

Police had to warn protestors to leave the area a number of times or face prosecution, he added.

The parade began making its way down North Street shortly before 2pm and finished at Woodvale Parade in north Belfast later.

Peter Cardwell said that as the procession made its way down Royal Avenue a band played Sloop John B, also known as The Famine Song.

Some marchers had Orange regalia on, although this was not an official Orange parade.

Saturday's march was organised to protest at decisions by the Parades Commission after it ruled that Orangemen could not return home past the Ardoyne shop fronts on 12 July.

Senior Orange Order member Rev Mervyn Gibson told UTV the recent decision by the watchdog to ban bands from playing music in the Woodvale Road and Twaddell Avenue areas next week had encouraged more people to attend.

"People are angry but they're here to show through peaceful means that anger and they want to see the back of the Parades Commission and the Brethren return home to Ligoniel."

TUV leader Jim Allister, who attended the march, said the loyalist and unionist people of north Belfast are being "oppressed".

He said the local loyalist community has seen their rights "trampled" over the summer months.

"I'm encouraged by the resolution and determination of the unionist and loyalist people of north Belfast," he told UTV.

A number of diversions were in place in the city centre and the Shankill Road areas during the parade.

© UTV

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