REPUBLICANS have taken to the streets of west Belfast in large numbers on Tuesday night following the death yesterday of Margaret Thatcher.
Cavalcades of cars have been driving along the Falls Road towards Divis Tower for a 7pm gathering which republicans have called a ‘Thatcher Is Dead Party’.
It had been arranged on social network sites.
The traffic in the area has come to a standstill and events are being monitored by the PSNI’s ‘Hawkeye’ helicopter.
One local said: “I haven’t seen crowds like this on the Falls Road in many a year. It is unbelieveable.”
On Facebook, republicans were urged to turn out in numbers, bring flags and bin lids.
On Tuesday night, Union flag protests have restarted at Woodstock Link, in east Belfast and at Hope Street and Sandy Row in south Belfast as a result of the so-called republican ‘street parties’ over the death of Baroness Thatcher.
The so-called ‘street parties’ have been condemned by unionist politicians as ‘depraved’ and ‘ghoulish’.
Sinn Fein refused to condemn the street demonstrations. North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said he would not be taking part in them.
Earlier on Tuesday, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said people should not celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher.
The former prime minister died on Monday aged 87 after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London.
A number of “street parties” organised over social network sites were held in Derry/Londonderry and west Belfast as well as other parts of the UK.
In a tweet, Mr McGuinness said people should “resist celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher”.
He added: “She was not a peacemaker but it is a mistake to allow her death to poison our minds.”
Trouble broke out in the the Bogside area of Derry/Londonderry at around 7pm on Monday night when the missiles were thrown at police.
A PSNI spokeswoman said no-one was injured and no damage was caused. Investigations are continuing into the disturbance.
Graffiti appeared on the gable wall, while lanterns were lit and cars carrying Irish tricolours were driven through the Bogside.
In west Belfast, a crowd assembled on the streets outside the Sinn Féin office in the Lower Falls on Monday night around 10 pm, where music was played and passing motorists sounded their horns.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister called the Northern Ireland street parties “ghoulish”.
“What an insight into the depravity of IRA supporters: their ghoulish street parties to celebrate the death of Mrs Thatcher,” he tweeted.
Stormont Junior Miniter and DUP MLA Jonathan Bell said the celebrations of Baroness Thatcher’s death were “disappointing and disgusting”.
“While many will differ on policy, such is the nature of the democratic process, all right thinking people will regard the carnival celebrations following Baroness Thatcher’s death deeply inappropriate,” he said.
“At a time of bereavement there should be human compassion for those in mourning.”
Similar ‘street parties’ were held in Great Britain, including in Glasgow where more than 300 people took part in an impromptu “party” organised via Twitter.
Margaret Thatcher died at the Ritz Hotel in London on Monday after suffering a stroke
Glasgow council urged people to stay away from the city’s George Square after hundreds gathered there to mark the death.
It is believed the gathering took inspiration from the song George Square Thatcher Death Party by the Glasgow group Mogwai.
Margaret Thatcher has been remembered as a figure who divided opinion.
The 87-year-old has long been vilified in republican circles, in particular for her handling of the IRA hunger strikes inside the Maze prison in the early 1980s.
Lady Thatcher became a top target of the IRA – and the grouping attempted to murder her in the deadly Brighton bomb blast of 1984.
Five people lost their lives when the Tory conference was targeted. Her close colleague Norman Tebbit and his wife were injured.
Paying tribute on Monday, First Minister Peter Robinson described her as one of the greatest political figures of post-war Britain, saying the country is “indebted” to her.
But Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was scathing in his assessment and accused her of doing “great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister”.
In Bristol, seven police officers were injured when violence flared after police were called to Chelsea Road, Easton, where about 200 people had gathered.
Protests were also held in Brixton in south London.
The Northern Ireland Office has confirmed that the union flag will be flown at half mast in Northern Ireland on the day of Lady Thatcher’s funeral.
Lady Thatcher was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to hold the role.
She will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday 17 April.