REPUBLICANS will hold their first ever parade in Ballymena on August 9, to commemorate the introduction of interment in 1971.

A decision is expected to be made by the Parade's Commission next Thursday, July 28.

The five-band parade is planned to begin in Fisherwick Gardens at 7.30pm before making it's way down the Broughshane Road, then onto the Cushendall Road and into Dunclug Park.

The return leg of the parade is scheduled to leave Dunclug at 9.00pm , going down Frys Road, then Broughshane Road before returning to Fisherwick.

On the parade's commission website, it states that there will be up to 650 participants.

The planned republican parade on August 9, is set against a stormy background of nationalist and republican protests to various loyalist and protestant marches through the North of the town.

A republican source from Dunclug said: "Yes this will be the first ever time we have had a parade in Ballymena.

"This has been organised by young people in the area to commemorate the introduction of internment to Northern Ireland, which saw hundreds and hundreds of innocent nationalists locked up.

"The parade has been planned to replace the bonfires which have been built in previous years at this time. We hope that it will be a much better alternative to the bonfire."

It is understood that Sinn Fein have not been involved in the organising committee of the historic republican parade in Ballymena.

No Sinn Fein representatives were available for comment at the time of going to press.

Loyalist spokesman, Billy McCaughey said he had no objection to the parade, although he indicated that the route may be contentious.

"I have no problem with anyone holding a parade providing they have given notice to the PSNI. In fact, I would rather see republicans concentrating on celebrating and articulating their own culture, rather than seeking to suppress the cultural expression by others."