Video: Top police officer Alan Hutton appeals to Easter Monday parade organisers
Top Derry police officer Chief Inspector Alan Hutton has urged the organisers of a republican Easter commemoration on Monday to notify the Parades Commission of their intentions or the PSNI will be obliged to be in attendance.
The local District Commander said his officers wanted to facilitate the right of republicans to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising over the weekend but warned that unnotified parades were illegal and police would be forced to attend unless an application is made to the commission.
Last year there were minor street disturbances during a commemoration in Creggan on Easter Monday.
CI Hutton said: "We are aware of a parade being advertised on social media to take place here in the city on Easter Monday.
"Over the last few months I and others have sought to engage with the organisers to make clear that we support the right of those involved to parade and we will ensure that those rights are protected when they are acting within the law.
"So far our attempts at engagement have not been taken up and the organisers of the parade have not yet submitted the simple application for the parade to the independent Parades Commission.
"I would appeal to the organisers and those with influence to make the application and protect those who want to take part in the parade.
"By doing so there will be no requirement for police to attend and we will get on with the job of preventing crime and supporting victims and helping the most vulnerable in our community.
"Without an application to the Parades Commission the parade will be unlawful and means that anyone who takes part in the parade may be committing a criminal offence and will be liable for prosecution.
"In previous years the community has been subjected to petrol bombing and violence and a number of people have ended up before the courts.No-one in the community wants to see those events repeated."
The Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee, which has organised the controversial commemoration at 2.30 p.m. on Monday, stated: "Lately we have been delivered certain ultimatums regarding our commemoration; we reject these totally.
"Republicans have always honoured the patriots of 1916 along with every patriot who has fallen since. We want a dignified procession and we call on community leaders to ensure that British Crown Forces exercise common sense.
"This is a republican commemoration in the middle of Creggan, a community that has stood tall throughout this ongoing struggle, a community that has earned the respect of Irish republicans the world over.
"If British Crown Forces saturate and hem in this community with armoured jeeps and armed British terrorists then the blame for any acts of resistance rests with them alone.
"The republican community will defend the people and defend the people’s right to march in an honourable and dignified manner to commemorate our republican dead."
But Derry's top police officer said: "As a police officer and as a parent I do not want to see out children being subjected to any level of violence let alone being brought into the criminal justice system.
"If the parade goes ahead unnotified then we will fulfil our legal obligations but in a proportionate manner.
"Our priority as a police service has and will continue to be the safety of the community and particularly those living in Creggan."