'Protest should be lawful' - Ford

Published Friday, 29 November 2013
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Justice Minister David Ford has said Saturday's loyalist parade in Belfast city centre should remain lawful and should abide by the Parades Commission's determination.

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A group calling itself Loyalist Peaceful Protesters has been given permission by the parading watchdog to bring up to 10,000 people into the city centre for the demonstration.

The parade has been organised ahead of the one year anniversary of Belfast City Council's decision to restrict the number of days it flies the Union Flag at city hall.

There have been widespread calls for the event, organised for one of the busiest shopping days of the year, to be called off or re-arranged in order to minimise the impact on beleaguered traders in the city.

Earlier this week the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she "wished" the protest wasn't taking place.

Justice Minister David Ford echoed her sentiment in an interview with UTV.

He said: "Nobody who is a responsible citizen should be adding any pressures to the work of the police at this time.

"What's absolutely clear is that if people do wish to demonstrate they should do it, not just peacefully, but lawfully.

"There's a Parades Commission determination that they should be clear of the city hall at 12pm and clear of the city centre by 12.30pm.

"They should stick to that and they should obey the law as it is set down by the Parades Commission.

"And they should allow those that want to go and shop in the city centre on the busiest shopping day of the year - as it's been described - the opportunity to do so freely and without fear of what might happen."

The Alliance leader added: "I certainly wish it wasn't happening, indeed some of those organising it seem to recognise that it will have no affect at all on the city council vote, so we do have to question why they are doing so.

"But I repeat the point, if they wish to demonstrate, it must be lawful and it must therefore be out of the city centre to allow normal trade to happen.

"I don't know what the potential for trouble is, I certainly hope there will be no trouble whatsoever."

The South Antrim MLA's call comes after dissident republicans forced a driver to take a bomb into the city centre.

The intended target was one of the city's main shopping centres, Victoria Square.

Mr Ford added: "I will be in Belfast doing my Christmas shopping and hope others will because it is important we live a normal life.

"People should be careful, but that doesn't mean they should run in complete fear and panic."

© UTV News
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18 Comments
D in belfast wrote (140 days ago):
let them stand out in the cold nobody takes them serious the British government cudnt care less I actually feel sorry for them they need some leadership maybe George bush? lol
john in belfast wrote (141 days ago):
I blame Robinson for all of this. It was ok for the union flag to be flown on designated days everywhere else but not, according to him, in Belfast. Anyway why is the name of the organiser not made public. What has he got to fear. I read in another media that he is not even from Belfast. No. His town is not disrupted. If there is any breach of the Parades Commission ruling on this protest I hope he and his "committee" are held to account and the appropriate jail term handed out. The ordinary people are sick and tired at the way these self appointed righteous zealots bully the vast majority of ordinary people. Move on with your lives. Your as bad as the terrorists.
Patrick in Toledo,Spain wrote (141 days ago):
Yesterday I read an interview with Billy Hutchinson in the Belfast Telegraph, Billy was a man who I use to have a certain degree of respect for as he claims to represent the working classes of his community.But what a surprise to read his anti Republican diatribe, Billy claims to represent the working class, where was Billy in the 1970s and 80s ? A member of the UVF, an organisation who gunned down working class Catholic's on their way to work !He say's that loyalist now feel like Republicians, they are abused by the legal system and the forces of law and order. Where was the voice of the people all those years ago when Catholic's suffered these abuses? did he speak out against the murdering of working class Catholic's, being a Republican was enough to justify assassination ? indeed, one can be a republican, working class, without being a terrorist !So Billy what's your next move going to be ? you blame mainstream unionist for all the woes of the Protestant working class but what do you have to offer ? You refused to admit that you know the organisers of todays demonstration when you do know well that it is someone who doesn't even live in the Belfast area ! The election bell's are ringing Billy, keep up the good work !
sharlene in ballyclare wrote (141 days ago):
Mr Ford you are the main reason this protest is happening. your decision to remove the flag last year is why the loyalist people are protesting today.
e in Belfast wrote (141 days ago):
Shut up Ford. You offer nothing! Your comments are designed to cause a reaction.
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