Since December 2012 a weekly “illegal” parade has taken place in Belfast by a number of loyalists. This parade has been facilitated time and time again by the RUC. The policing and reaction to the loyalist protests stands in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to Republicans who have taken part in or organised un-notified parades.
In January 2011 hundreds of Republicans marched in Lurgan, Co. Armagh to highlight the internment of Veteran Republican Martin Corey. Marching through a nationalist town on a Sunday afternoon, quietly and peacefully, the marchers where met by the RUC who shouted through loud hailers that they were taking part in an illegal parade, signs erected at the side of their landrovers spelled out that prosecutions would follow and every participant was recorded and followed on police video cameras.
Not long after this march a number of people were awakened at 6am by the RUC, taken from their homes to an RUC station and questioned about their involvement in an “illegal parade”. Released later that day they were informed they would be facing court proceedings.
In March 2012, 14 Republicans sat through a three day trial accused of taking part in an “illegal parade”. All 14 people were “convicted” with participating in an illegal Parade; two people where further convicted of organising the parade. All 14 people were given fines ranging from £300 to £700, many refused to pay their fines and subsequently spent a week in Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood prisons.
This stands in stark contrast to the weeks of “illegal” parading by the loyalist flag protesters. The response in general from the RUC has been interesting to say the least. No loudhailers, no signs promising prosecution, no organisers arrested; the RUC facilitate this march weekly and only now after 12 weeks of “illegal” parading have the RUC even used the terminology “illegal” Parade.
The loyalist flag parades have seen days of rioting, homes under attack in the Short Strand and countless roads blocked, and indeed several members of the RUC injured and one almost murdered in her car. This is a far cry from the peaceful parade in Lurgan that saw 14 people brought before the British Courts.
The discovery after weeks of “illegal” parading by Loyalists, that the police are unsure of the legal status of un-notified parades is disingenuous. The RUC had no such reservations in arresting and charging, and the judge convicting, Republicans for holding peaceful un-notified parades.
The Release Martin Corey march was met with such hostility because it tried to highlight that internment still exists. Republicans and human rights activists must not allow this state corruption to stop them highlighting Martin’s case.
The RUC are part of the same corrupt and rotten force that interns Martin Corey in Maghaberry prison, without charge or trial for almost three years now.
Martin Corey must now be released, his continued detention is a crime against his human rights.