Furious Loyalists promise counter demonstration

Police are confident they can cope with the parade.
Police are confident they can cope with the parade.

A loyalist group has warned that a counter demonstration will be held in Bellshill on the day of a march by Irish republicans.

The Irish Republican Bands Scotland parade was given the go-ahead by North Lanarkshire Council yesterday despite a police report stating there is a “high” risk of public disorder.

The council’s public processions sub-committee was told at least 50 officers will be needed to “ensure the safety” of 30 marchers protesting at “anti-Irish racism”.

Despite this, the police had no objection to the parade going ahead on Saturday, August 27.

However, a loyalist organisation, Regimental Blues, is furious at the decision to allow it and claims another 100 officers might be needed to police a counter demonstration.

Spokesman Christopher McGurk warned the police presence in Bellshill would be comparable to that at an Old Firm football match.

Regimental Blues representatives were among the objectors who spoke at the council meeting yesterday.

Mr McGurk said: “The risk assessment was screaming out that this parade should not go ahead and I was highly surprised by the outcome.

“There is an appetite locally for a counter demonstration and I would encourage as many loyalists as possible to go along.”

Although there is no right of appeal against the decison to let the republican march go ahead, Mr McGurk insisted it could still be stopped.

He stated: “The police commander on the day can stop a parade because of safety concerns. If 200 or 300 people are in Bellshill for a counter demonstration there’s no way the police will take a risk and let the republican parade go past them.”

The committee was also warned that Bellshill businesses will suffer a loss of trade as a result of the lunchtime march. One objector said he knows of a pub which has decided to remain closed on the day.

However, representatives of the organisers said they should have the right to march and dismissed claims of widespread public concern.

Organiser William Riddell insisted: “There won’t be any problems in Bellshill that day.”

PC Steven Harfield told the committee: “We recognise there are challenges presented by this parade, but are confident we can manage them.”

The sub-committee voted 6-3 to let the march go ahead.