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South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford had condemned those responsible for an advertisement for a “unified peaceful mass gathering” in two locations in Belfast this weekend. Images of the advert have been circulating online.

The DUP MLA said, “There is a strong and understandable desire from everyone to see normality return. The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact across all aspects of society and have required unprecedented regulations to be introduced.

The vast majority of people recognise that whilst these regulations are indeed restrictive, but are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and ultimately to protect life. It is reckless and dangerous therefore for any group to advertise “mass gatherings” within Belfast. Such flyers have appeared across other parts of the UK and are being taken seriously by police forces within those areas.

Such images are circulating along with a range of conspiracy theories and fake news online. Indeed, the flyers for these supposed gatherings talk even mention opposition to “mandatory vaccinations”. Others involved in attempting to organise such gatherings in other locations have even referenced the bizarre and completely ridiculous claim that 5G mobile phone masts have been causing the illness rather than the virus.

I would encourage people not to share these images, even with the intention of opposing the event or highlighting the obvious flaws in the thinking behind it. Through publicising the locations or exact timings it only increases the chances that people may go to the venue, even out of curiosity.

Everyone wants to see restrictions lifted here in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible. The irony which is undoubtedly lost on those supporting such gatherings is that should people be foolish enough to attend, then they only risk increasing transmission of the virus and necessitating longer and possibly stricter controls to be imposed.”