Sinn Fein councillor ‘joined vigil but not un-notified parade’

A Sinn Fein councillor in Armagh has rejected claims he took part in an un-notified parade in the city at the weekend.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 6:52 pm
Councillor Garath Keating was in Armagh city for a pro-Palestinian vigil on Saturday

Cllr Garath Keating said he attended the pro-Palestinian vigil but denied involvement in the procession of protesters following the vigil in Market Street.

A video clip recorded on Saturday shows the protestors chanting as they marched through the city led by an activist with a megaphone.

It shows around 100 people, many carrying banners, posters and flags, making their way along Market Street and into Upper English Street.

There is no notified parade listed for Armagh on that date on the website of the Parades Commission.

As the head of the procession entered Upper English Street, Cllr Keating can been seen towards the rear with a large Palestinian flag pushing a child’s buggy.

He close to a young child displaying a poster while one of a number of women walking a short distance behind him is also displaying a Palestinian poster.

Asked if he had knowingly taken part in an un-notified parade, Cllr Keating said: “I was in town on Saturday and attended the vigil, yes. I just attended a vigil in Market Street.”

Asked if he walked in the march, which was being led by an activist with a loud-hailer, he replied: “No.”

Cllr Keating confirmed that the image of a protest participant, pushing a double-deck buggy in one hand and carrying a Palestinian flag in the other, matched his description on that day, and added: “I had nothing to do with organising the event, and wasn’t leading it, so that’s not correct.

“I haven’t seen any of the footage or any of the information you’re mentioning so I can’t give you any context to it, or any description.

“I seen an advertisement on Facebook for a vigil – a silent vigil maintaining social distancing in Market Street. I was in town anyway so I stopped by to attend the vigil for peace and an end to hostilities in the Middle East.”

Asked if he was aware that the parade was unnotified and therefore potentially illegal, Cllr Keating said: “I had no idea. I didn’t join a parade, and had no intention of being involved in an unnotified parade.

“I went to Market Street to attend a vigil whilst I was in town and then went about my business after I attended the vigil.

“I attended the vigil with my kids – a very dignified, peaceful, vigil – and then I went about my business in town.”

When asked to comment specifically on the pro-Palestinian parade in Armagh city, a PSNI spokeswoman said police were aware of a number of events on Saturday and were working to establish if offences have been committed.

“Police are aware of a number of notified and un-notified parades that took place across Northern Ireland,” she said.

“All the footage gathered will now be reviewed and we will consider any suspected breaches of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 and The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.”

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