NATIONALIST residents who failed yesterday to overturn convictions for staging a sitdown protest at a disputed Orange Order parade have vowed to go to jail rather than pay fines.
Appeals by eight men found guilty of obstructing lawful activity in public were dismissed at elfast County ourt. ines of £400.00 had been imposed on each of them for blocking a main road at Ardoyne in the North of the cityduring the Twelth of July march in 2010. Some were also convicted of resising arrest and handed an additional £200 in penalties. Judge Derick Rodgers threw out the appeals after rejecting all grounds of challange.
Outside the Court it was claimed the charges were brought in a doomed attempt to silence the Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition’s ( GARC ) opposition to Orange parades. GARC spokesman Damien Fennell ( 30 ) of Linden Gardens, Belfast, who was one of those found guilty of obstruction, said: ” We will be continuing to oppose unwanted parades through our area by whatever peacefull means necessary.” Mr Fennell also said the punishment was unjust. ” All of the appellants here today will be refusing to pay their fines,” he said. ” we are willing to go to jail to demonstrate our opposition to these parades through our area.”
Last December a total of 25 men and one woman were found guilty of staging an illegal sit-down protest on the Crumlin Road. Identification evidence was held to be strong enough to convict them. The charges were defended with residents and campaigners claiming they were involved in a peaceful sit-down protest which did not breach a Parades Commission determination. Those who appealed were Mr Fennell; John Darragh (32 ) of Mountforde Gardens; William Catney ( 53 ) from Springfield Park; Robert Jackson ( 48 ) of Kenard Avenue; Paul Carson ( 47 ) from Highbury Gardens; Alan Lundy ( 33 ) from Rosehead; Aiden Ferguson ( 31 ) of Highbury Gardens; Daniel Lundy ( 31 ) of Russell Place – all in Belfast.
Their lawyers argued the road was already blocked before the protest began. Judge Rodgers rejected this submission and a further contention that the blockage was caused by Police diversion signs. He stressed the appellants were not deprived of their right to protest under the European Convention of Human Rights. Upholding the convictions, he said: ” They could have applied to the Parades Commission for permission to protest and done so legitimately and subject to any restrictions placed on them. ” Alternatively, they could have carried out an unregulated parade which did not involve blocking the highway and preventing its legitimate use,” he said. He also dismissed the appeals against resisting police, declaring that officers acted lawfully in clearing the roadway.
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