Wednesday 21 February 2018

Unionist parade passed peacefully despite breach, says McGuinness

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

SINN Fein's Martin McGuinness says the Unionist celebrations in Northern Ireland at the weekend passed off "peacefully" - but loyalist bands did defy a ruling.

Up to 30,000 Unionists took part in commemorations to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant - one of the most significant dates in Unionist history.

The Northern Ireland deputy first minister said the event passed in a "relatively peaceful manner" and this was "further evidence of how far things have come".

A controversial parade past a Catholic church in north Belfast Catholic church passed without trouble.

Northern Ireland's Parades Commission, which makes determinations on contentious marches, had placed restrictions on the part of the route past St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street.

Local residents claim the Parades Commission ruling was breached.

Mr McGuinness said the law will have to take its course on this incident.

"Despite problems such as the defiance of a Parades Commission determination by loyalist bands, what is remarkable is how the huge event passed off so peacefully.

"And I think this augers positively for the future and in particular for the celebration of a number of other key historical anniversaries, which will require sensitive and sensible planning.

"It is yet further evidence of how far things have come as a result of our peace process," he said.

"In relation to the defiance of the Parades Commission determination, I believe the law must take its course but I do believe that far more needs to done to tackle sectarianism," he said.

The commemoration resulted in the biggest policing operation in the city in 20 years.

A six-mile parade march from Belfast city centre to Stormont marked the 100th anniversary of the agreement to oppose Home Rule for Ireland in 1912.

The signing of the document laid the foundations for the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland a decade later.

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