Bottomley lifts Ulster protest ban

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Gerry Adams could be allowed to address a Sinn Fein rally in Trafalgar Square, following the decision by the Government to lift the 23-year-old ban on Northern Ireland protest meetings at the world-famous landmark, writes Colin Brown.

The ban was imposed in 1972, in the wake of the Aldershot bombings, amid fears that demonstrations at Trafalgar Square by IRA supporters would lead to violence in the capital.

Trafalgar Square has witnessed many demonstrations in the meantime, from Ban the Bomb protests to the campaign against the Poll Tax, which ended in violence.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, yesterday announced she was lifting the ban. It was seen as a confidence-building measure to underline the Government's commitment to the peace process.

Mrs Bottomley said organisations would still have to get permission from the Metropolitan Police for any rallies. The IRA and Loyalist paramilitary organisations would not be allowed to use the square to stage demonstrations as they are still banned organisations.

Mrs Bottomley said: "My department will continue to apply the rules which restrict all demonstrations on Trafalgar Square to weekends, and will continue to ... consider each application on its merits."