PSNI warn Markethill protestors objecting to lack of Bobby Storey prosecutions that they could face court for breaching same rules
Police have warned Markethill protestors objecting to the failure to prosecute republicans for breaches of Covid rules that they could now face court under the same regulations.
An unnotified parade took place in the Co Armagh town last night, with PSNI using a loudhailer and large banners to warn participants that they were liable to arrest and prosecution. There were no reports of any violence or disorder.
Video clips show a parade of some 40 band members parading through the town while police urged them to disperse, to no avail.
The parade comes after protests across unionist areas of Northern Ireland, reportedly due to the Irish Sea customs border and the failure to prosecute participants in the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey for potential breaches of Covid regulations.
While many of the loyalist protests have been peaceful, violence in some areas has been condemned by unionist leaders after leaving dozens of police officers injured.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has called for any protests to be peaceful and run with PSNI cooperation.
District Commander for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Superintendent Patricia Foy said police will now review video footage from Markethill last night for suspected breaches of Covid regulations.
“Police were made aware of an un-notified procession on Main Street in Markethill yesterday evening, Wednesday April 21,” she said.
“Organisers of parades are required to give formal notification of their intentions and, last night, warnings were given to participants and an evidence-gathering operation was in place.
“We will now review all the footage gathered and consider any suspected breaches of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations NI 2020.”
But organisers of the parade have now released a statement expressing their anger about the failure to prosecute anyone for Covid breaches at the highly controversial republican funeral in west Belfast last June.
“The farce of the PPS response to the organised IRA funeral, combined with a plethora of other events, has magnified the strength of emotions immeasurably,” the Markethill protestors said in a statement.
The statement said that the anger caused by the outworkings of the [NI] Protocol has engendered in South and Mid Armagh among Unionism is immense.
“Like elsewhere it has been and is being underestimated by both politicians and media commentators. It is only the seriousness of the covid emergency, now clearly edging towards an end, that has curtailed physical expression of that anger to this point.”
They added: “For decades Unionism and Loyalism was told it should not just listen to the needs of the minority community, of Irish Republicanism and Nationalism, but it MUST work with it and act accordingly. Today when those same communities perceive themselves to have a numerical dominance, unwavering majority rule is now deemed acceptable.
“Benign expressions such as a small statue at Stormont or the erection of a flag at half mast for the death of Prince Phillip are disregarded, as too are our views on Brexit, the Protocol, the Irish Language, and even in many instances in terms of education and health policy.
“We can’t speak or act for others, but in Markethill and its environs we intend to demonstrate our anger at the increasingly hypocritical and partisan approach in Northern Ireland Politics by Republicanism, Nationalism and self defined neutrals. In the weeks and months ahead we will ensure our voices are heard.”
UUP MLA Doug Beattie praised the protestors for a peaceful protest - but urged organisers of such events to work with police.
“I support the right to peaceful protest and I am heartened that this protest was indeed peaceful,” he said. “I’d appeal for all those protesting to adhere to Health protection measures and I would also ask that those organising such demonstrations to inform the police for safety reasons. My concern would be based around an unknowing driver ploughing into the back of any parade or demonstration not realising it was taking place.”
Organisers said further parades are planned for this weekend in Moygashel, Larne and Ballymena area, with a “legal” parade planned for Markethill.
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