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THE appearance of masked men leading an illegal loyalist parade through Belfast on Thursday night was “sinister and concerning,” a Sinn Fein MP said today.
Loyalists gathered in the Woodvale district on Thursday evening before marching down the Shankill Road in protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit agreement with the European Union that some loyalists believe undermines their Britishness.
Footage posted on social media showed the burning of a united Ireland banner that had been displayed on the nationalist side of the local peace wall earlier this year.
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey criticised the gathering, saying that the burning of the Irish flag was a deliberate attempt to provoke and raise tensions.
“We have witnessed the recent violence on the streets where property was destroyed, police officers injured and people left terrified in their homes. Those scenes cannot be repeated.
“The PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] now need to address this illegal parade and the actions associated with it.
“Those within positions of leadership in political unionism also need to come out and condemn the scenes witnessed tonight, including masked men standing outside a DUP constituency office and others holdings sinister banners targeting US President Joe Biden.
“Hooded men on our streets or calls to provoke instability have no place in our society and those in positions of leadership need to make that clear.”
Police have estimated that more than 3,000 people took part in the parade, which is more than the number allowed to gather in public under coronavirus regulations.
Chief Inspector Darren Fox said today that the footage gathered would be examined for suspected breaches of public health rules.
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