Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Police probe as marchers defy parade conditions

The PSNI says it has launched an investigation into a march held in Newry on Saturday which allegedly breached strict parade conditions ordered by the Parades Commission.

Hosted by the Newry branch of Saoradh, the march and rally to commemorate the hunger strikers was organised by the Newry Republican Commemoration Committee with prominent Belfast republican Dee Fennell invited as the main speaker.

Earlier in the week, the Parades Commission permitted the march to go ahead while imposing a number of restrictions, which included participants refraining from wearing any clothing or displaying any symbols relating to a proscribed organization.

On Saturday, several hundred people took part in the parade, which began at Kilmorey Street before making its way through the city to Raymond McCreesh Park on Patrick Street where a rally was held to commemorate the hunger strikers.

Dee Fennell addressed those gathered and said: “No doubt this commemoration will become a mainstay in the republican calendar for years to come. It is particularity fitting that today’s proceedings finished here in Raymond McCreesh Park.  I want to commend the local people who faced ongoing intimidation and vilification for ensuring this park remains named after a gallant IRA volunteer and H Block martyr.”

However, a number of participants in the march were wearing what was described as “paramilitary-style” clothing, which has been determined as a clear flout of the Parade Commission’s conditions.

The Commission’s code of conduct prohibits the display of all references, insignia, flags or emblems relating to any proscribed organization, and the wearing of paramilitary-style clothing is also banned.

Police officers who were patrolling the parade could be heard telling marchers that they were breaching the Parade Commission’s determination and were therefore “liable for prosecution”, witnesses reported.

PSNI chief inspector Nigel Henry said the parade breached the Parades Commission determinations on a number of occasions, despite numerous verbal warnings.

“The aim of the policing operation today was to keep people safe and facilitate the parade in line with the law. A full evidence gathering operation was in place and an investigation into the breaches has commenced,” he said.