Northern Ireland

Belfast riots: Police urge calm ahead of Castlederg march

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Media captionMatt Baggott: "I don't think there can be any excuses whatsoever for violence"

Police in Northern Ireland have appealed for calm ahead of a controversial republican parade later in Castlederg, County Tyrone.

Loyalist protests against a republican parade in Belfast on Friday left 56 police officers injured.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has urged organisers to call off the Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade.

She said the march, commemorating dead IRA members, was "causing great hurt" to victims of terrorism.

After meeting with a victims' group opposed to the parade, Ms Villiers complained on Thursday that legal powers to ban the parade were "restricted and narrowly defined".

The Parades Commission has placed restrictions on the march, which has been re-routed away from the town's war memorial.


Image caption The republican march has been re-routed away from Castlederg's war memorial

The event will commemorate Tyrone's republican dead, including two IRA members killed by their own bomb in 1973, and is backed by Sinn Féin.

Organisers have refused to call off the parade, despite the calls from the secretary of state as well as victims' families, unionists and other politicians.

The Derg Valley Victims Voice said the parade would glorify terrorism and traumatise families affected by IRA violence.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuiness has said people should "respect the right" of republicans in Tyrone to "an act of remembrance".

Mr McGuiness, who will not be at Castlederg because he is on holiday, said this week: "I don't have any other reason to believe that Sunday will not be peaceful - it's not a celebration, it's an act of remembrance."

Sustained rioting

Friday's trouble began when loyalists staged a demonstration in Belfast city centre against a republican parade that was due to pass along Royal Avenue, one of the main shopping districts.

Protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for the parade to arrive.

Police said they came under heavy and sustained attack by crowds "intent on creating disorder".

A number of parked vehicles were set on fire in the nearby North Street area and a number of shops and a pub were damaged during the violence.

Image caption Northern Ireland's Chief Constable Matt Baggott praised officers for their "immense courage"

Officers also said they had reports that two members of the public had been injured.

Some loyalists accused the police of being heavy-handed.

The police fired baton rounds and made eight arrests amid sustained rioting in Royal Avenue.

Northern Ireland's Chief Constable Matt Baggott described the violence as "mindless anarchy" and "thuggery".

He praised his officers for their "immense courage", saying they had put their lives on the line to protect the rule of law.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that they prevented that anarchy from spreading and, without that courage, many lives may well have been lost," Mr Baggott added.

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