LOYALIST groups have called on protests planned for tonight to be 'postponed' following the death of Britain's Prince Philip.
In Facebook posts addressed to "PUL areas", the groups said protests should be "postponed as an act of respect". "One of the main principles of loyalism is loyalty to the Crown. Let us stand by that principle."
Earlier the Loyalist Communities Council, which includes paramilitary groups among its members, issued a statement accusing the Irish and British governments of "a complete failure to understand loyalists as people and equal citizens". The statement denied loyalist paramilitaries were involved in the recent violence across the North.
It added: "A new (Northern Irish) Protocol must be negotiated that restores the key (Good Friday) Agreement safeguards. In practice, this means no hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and no hard border on this island."
Earlier we reported that the Park Centre is to close its Broadway entrance from 5pm on Friday afternoon as loyalists protesters threaten "to march" on West Belfast in their latest so-called Sea Border demonstration.
Posts have circulated on social media suggested that loyalist protestors will gather at Donegall Road from 6pm and attempt to march towards West Belfast.
I’m on the Springfield Road tonight helping the community calm a crowd of angry youths.— Rev Karen Sethuraman (@KarenSethuraman) April 8, 2021
It was so humbling to watch these community activists who had stones etc thrown at them👇stand at Lanark Way ...seeking to prevent the youths getting to the peace wall to fight.#Heroes pic.twitter.com/CkNjIfVmeu
In a letter from Park Centre Manager, Ruth Lindsay, shoppers and tenants are told the Broadway entrance will close from 5pm. The Donegall Road entrance will remain open for access and the Centre will "continue to trade as it is safe to do so".
The Park Centre said they are liaising with community leaders and the PSNI for advice.
Meanwhile, football clubs from opposite sides of the interface have issued strong statements urging young people to stay away from street trouble.
In a statement, Sandy Row FC said: “At Sandy Row FC we are firm believers that politics should remain separate from football and sports in general. We use the medium of sport to break down religious barriers and have forged some great relationships and ongoing friendships with clubs from all over Belfast and further afield.
“We have worked closely organising cross-community summer leagues, coaching courses and other events with clubs such as Belfast Celtic YM, Willowbank, Réalta, Albion Star, Cliftonville FC, St James Swifts and St Pat's to name a few.
“We would encourage all of our players, coaches and supporters young and old to refrain from getting involved in the current ongoing situation. Something that may seem like fun at the time could cost you in future life and effect your ability to get work and travel among other things.
“Football for all age groups will be starting back next week so hopefully this will give everyone something more positive to focus on.”
St James’ Swifts said they were encouraged to speak out in support of their friends at Sandy Row FC.
Club statement: pic.twitter.com/7UVqpHXDMq— St. James Swifts (@stjamesswifts) April 8, 2021
A club statement said: “Everyone at St James Swifts has been saddened to see the events that have unfolded the past few nights across Belfast.
“As many people may know, we originally started out as a Friday night six-a-side team to help young men in the area stay away from anti-social behaviour, we know too well the impact that this can have on communities.
“This is an urgent appeal directly to the young people of St James, West Belfast and surrounding areas to please stay away from these interfaces and steer clear of trouble.
“Just next week we are able to open our doors again for training. This is also an open invitation to anyone at all, from any background, to come along to our training and get involved in something productive. St James Swifts are a cross-community club and some of the best times we have had over the years has been through the friendships we have forged through football. Teams from all walks of life and backgrounds.
“Right now all this negativity may seem exciting, you may even be angry, but there are much better ways to address these situations and violence certainly isn’t one of them.
“We have been encouraged to make this statement after seeing our friends at Sandy Row Football Club show great leadership in asking people to also stay away from these interfaces. We echo their sentiments and urge people to stay away.
“As two neighbouring teams on an interface and from different backgrounds, we are both willing to work together to give our youth a better opportunity through sport.”