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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2006, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Thousands march in Orange parades
Orange lodge banner at the parade in Belfast city centre
Seventeen Orange rallies are being held across Northern Ireland
Tens of thousands of Orangemen and supporters are attending Northern Ireland's Twelfth of July parades.

The largest demonstration of the day is in Belfast and there are 17 main venues across six counties.

The Independent Orange Order demonstration is being held in Portrush in County Antrim.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Robert Saulters, will deliver the main speech at Ballycastle in County Antrim.

For the first time since 1970, soldiers are not being deployed to assist the policing of the Twelfth demonstrations in Belfast.

RALLY SITES
Randalstown
Broomhedge
Portglenone
Ballymena
Broughshane
Ballycastle
Richhill
Belfast
Gilford
Bangor
Kilkeel
Maguiresbridge
Magherafelt
Coleraine
Castlecaulfield
Castlederg
Ballygawley

The entire security operation for Wednesday's parades, including several controversial ones, is being handled by police.

Last week, the Parades Commission said it hoped the two communities in north Belfast would work together to ensure an annual Twelfth of July parade there passed off peacefully.

The commission has placed restrictions on the return route of the Orange Order parade in the Ardoyne area of the city.

Only the lodges will be allowed to walk back in the evening, with supporters being bussed along part of the flashpoint.

The commission has also called for any protests to be peaceful and in proportion to the size of the parade.

Lord Laird
We want people to come out and join us, and people who don't know what we are about to come and understand who we are
Lord Laird
Parade organiser
The police have advised motorists that most towns and villages will have feeder parades in the morning leading onto the main district parades.

Parade organiser Lord Laird, dressed in a period Battle of the Boyne costume for the Belfast parade, said they wanted to make it a fun day out.

"This is a day which celebrates our culture - we are proud of our Ulster-Scots and Orange background," the Ulster Unionist peer said.

"We want people to come out and join us, and people who don't know what we are about to come and understand who we are."

In Bangor, the town's lodge grand master, John Ballard, said other lodges from nearby towns had joined them to celebrate what was a special day for them.

"Not only is it the 316th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, it is the centenary of Bangor district lodge," he said.

The annual Twelfth demonstrations mark the climax of the Protestant marching season.

They mark the victory of William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
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SEE ALSO
The Twelfth in pictures
12 Jul 06 |  In Pictures
Soldiers in barracks for Twelfth
12 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland
Drumcree parade passes peacefully
09 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland
Minor disturbance at Orange march
16 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
Agreement over contentious march
14 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland

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