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March Approved Despite Police Fears


An Irish republican group previously banned from marching in south Lanarkshire has been given the go-ahead to parade just nine miles away despite police admitting it carries a high public safety risk.

Councillors in North Lanarkshire have approved the Bellshill march by organisers, Independent Republican Bands Scotland (IRBS) to be held at lunchtime on August 27 in a protest over "anti-Irish racism".

Earlier this month South Lanarkshire Council issued a banning order to stop an IRBS march from taking place in Rutherglen because of public safety concerns raised by police.

But North Lanarkshire councillors, who in February were at the centre of controversy over plans to fly the national flag of the Irish Republic above council buildings to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, have taken a different view over the march believing there are no legal grounds to refuse it.

A Scots loyalist organisation Regimental Blues which objected to the march says it is planning a counter demonstration.

South Lanarkshire Council issued a rare banning order on the same day Glasgow City Council declined permission for the parade planned for August 7 after police claimed it would carry a “clear potential” for serious disorder and violence.

That march was organised to mark the 45th anniversary of the introduction of the Special Powers Act to introduce internment without trial in Northern Ireland for those suspected of being involved in violence.

Glasgow City Council’s public procession committee told the organisers that they can hold the march on September 3, despite organisers, saying the date was non-negotiable.

It declined permission for the march on August 7 after police said that if the parade takes place on Saturday “there would be a high risk to public safety, a high risk of public disorder and a high risk of disruption to the life of the community”.

They said that due to other competing events of the day, including two Glasgow Scottish Premiership matches at Ibrox and Firhill, and four other processions, one of which was expected to draw 3000 supporters, they would have to draw police resources from other local authority areas.

Police Scotland also pointed to an anti-internment parade in September, 2014, which was halted on Castlemilk Drive, Glasgow in the interests of public safety. Police made 12 arrests.

IRBS has previously pointed out that the organisation had held other parades in Glasgow and other local authority areas without any public disorder.

Police Scotland did not formally object to the parade going ahead, despite admitting the risk to public safety and public order, and the likelihood of disruption to the community, was “high”.

Police also raised concerns that the parade route passed close to a war memorial in Bellshill which previously "created a flashpoint for disorder".

And they pointed out that the Lanarkshire division already had to deal with two Scottish Premiership fixtures at Fir Park, Motherwell and New Douglas Park, Hamilton on the same day which required additional police resources.

But Police Scotland said while the parade will present "challenges" they were confident they will have sufficient resources and an appropriate plan to police the march accordingly.

For the Bellshill parade, while it is expected there will be around 30 marchers, accompanied by the Coatbridge United Irishmen Flute Band, it has emerged that there will be at least 50 police officers on duty for the parade.

Police Scotland have accepted the number of officers needed to “ensure the safety of parade participants” was “disproportionate”.

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “The application in this case was granted and there were no legal grounds on which to refuse it. Objections do not, of themselves, constitute grounds for refusal: the Civic Government Act presumes a right to process and any order made by the council must be justified with regard to the specific circumstances of any procession.”

In February, the corporate services committee of North Lanarkshire Council had backed a submission from Coatbridge-based Irish republican group Cairde Na hEireann to fly the tricolour on April 24, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of a rebellion in Dublin against British rule.

But the leader of the local authority’s ruling Labour group later confirmed its members would vote against the proposal.