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Monday, April 13, 1998 Published at 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK

Peaceful start to marching season
image: [ The parade passed off peacefully, but warnings of violence remain ]
The parade passed off peacefully, but warnings of violence remain

The Northern Ireland peace settlement cleared another crucial hurdle when the first contentious day in the marching calendar drew to a close without incident.

An Apprentice Boys' parade in Belfast stopped short of the Catholic Lower Ormeau Road on Monday.

The area was the scene of violent confrontations two years ago.

[ image: Ronnie Flanagan:
Ronnie Flanagan: "scope for tremendous disorder"
But while the Easter parade passed off peacefully, there have been further warnings of possible violence from groups desperate to disrupt the new peace agreement.

The Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Ronnie Flanagan, said there was still scope for "tremendous disorder" in the weeks ahead.

"Undoubtedly there are people out there intent on murder, intent on bombing, intent on wrecking any prospect that there is for a peaceful outcome," he said.

Marchers expressed their unhappiness

A dozen marchers from the Belfast Walker Club, together with one band, took part in the half-mile parade along the almost-deserted Ormeau Road.

Loyalist marchers, talking to the BBC's Joe Paley, say they hope one day to cross the Ormeau Bridge again
There was no protest by Catholic residents and only a low-key police presence as the marchers stopped at the Ormeau bridge, in line with a ruling by the Parades Commission.

They handed in a letter of protest about the re-routing when they reached a line of police at the bridge which divides the two communities, but there was no confrontation.

[ image: Marches passed without incident]
Marches passed without incident
Twenty other loyalist Easter Monday parades also passed off without incident. Catholic residents welcomed the conduct of the marchers.

Mr Flanagan praised the marchers' "great maturity", but expressed his concern that there was no evidence of any local agreements about other contentious parades.

The re-routing of the march was the first decision of the Parades Commission, which was set up to try to avert sectarian clashes.

The BBC's Peter Hunt says policing at the march was low key
It has still to take its most crucial decision - whether to allow an Orange Order march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road to Drumcree church in July.

The commission's preliminary views on Drumcree and other contentious parades are due to be announced in the week beginning April 20.

Meanwhile, the man who chaired the talks which ended in Friday's agreement is meeting President Clinton at the White House.

The BBC's Washington correspondent, Bridget Kendall, says Ireland is making headlines in the United States
Senator George Mitchell, who returned home at the weekend, will be thanked for his efforts in securing the accord, and will brief Mr Clinton on the prospects for a successful implementation of the deal.

He has already given a warning that the agreement could collapse unless those involved work hard to make it a success.

It was also reported on Monday that a cross-community university is to be built on the peace line in west Belfast in the wake of the peace settlement agreed at Stormont.

The 60m campus is earmarked for a site on the Springfield Road, the dividing line between the Catholic and Protestant communities.

As the Province gears up for a May 22 referendum on the peace settlement, the Pope has appealed for "responsible and concrete gestures" to make the deal a success.

He was speaking as rebel Ulster Unionist MPs threatened to join a "no" campaign being spearheaded by the Democratic Unionist leader, the Rev Ian Paisley.

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In this section

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Deal 'no threat to Union'

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Peace deal branded a 'sell-out'

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Clinton ready to visit N.Ireland

Blair sends peace warning