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The BBC's Denis Murray
"This is the most important date in the Orange calendar"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Peaceful climax to Orange marches
Ballynafeigh Orangemen halt at Ormeau barrier
Ballynafeigh Orangemen halt at Ormeau Road barrier
The climax to Northern Ireland's marching season has passed off peacefully as thousands of members of the Protestant Orange Order paraded to province-wide rallies.

The parades, by more than 1,500 lodges, mark the most important date in the Orange calendar - the 1690 defeat of Catholic King James by Protestant Prince William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne.

They followed another night of loyalist violence over the Order's controversial Drumcree parade which has been banned from the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh.

A man was shot dead in Larne, County Antrim. He is said to have had links with the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and there are suggestions that the killing could be linked to a dispute between rival loyalist groups.

In Portadown, 21 police officers and several soldiers were injured during rioting on Tuesday night, and in Belfast, masked loyalist paramilitaries fired shots during the bonfires which traditionally precede 12 July celebrations.

The security forces were attacked with petrol and blast bombs and fireworks. Two explosive devices were found in County Antrim and there were arson attacks on two churches and an Orange hall.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland had appealed on Tuesday for the violence to be curbed.

Rally sites
Belfast
Antrim
Ballinderry
Ballymena
Broughshane
Bushmills
Portglenone
Ballywalter
Comber
Dromore
Kilkeel
Killylea
Coleraine
Aughnacloy
Castlederg
Dungannon
Enniskillen
Larne

Wednesday's parades have seen Orangemen parading to 18 demonstration sites.

The most contentious march took place in Belfast, where Ballynafeigh District Lodge was barred by the Parades Commission from marching down the lower Ormeau Road, because of fears of public disorder and damage to community relations.

Early on Wednesday, the army and police sealed off the area with a steel barrier to block the Orangemen's route down the contentious part of the road.

Army sniffer dogs were used to carry out checks on Ormeau bridge, which divides the two communities.

The lodge held a protest at the security forces' barrier on the bridge, before joining the main Belfast demonstration at Ormeau Park.

'Threat of violence'

Ballynafeigh district chaplain, the Reverend William Hoey, said Orangemen had been confronted by the "obscenity" of the security barrier.

He accused the Parades Commission and the UK Government of "buckling under the threat of violence" on the nationalist side.

He also hit out at what he called "pan nationalism" and said there was no difference between the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Fein following the SDLP's decision not to fly the Union Flag on government buildings on the Twelfth.


Police in riot gear at the Springfield Road parade
Earlier, Sinn Fein councillor Sean Hayes said the only reason Orangemen wanted to come to the area was to "lay siege" to the community and "intimidate the nationalist community in Ballynafeigh".

Meanwhile, the Belfast lodges' main rally site was moved to Ormeau Park for the second year in protest at the lower Ormeau ban.

Parade opposed by residents

They abandoned their traditional rally site at Edenderry, outside Belfast, "in support" of Ballynafeigh District Lodge which said its "civil and religious right to march" through the lower Ormeau area had been denied.

The Ormeau parade is opposed by the nationalist residents' group, the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community. Their planned 20-hour counter-protest was restricted to an hour by the Parades Commission.

In west Belfast, the nationalist Springfield Residents' Action Group opposed the route of a local parade past an interface area on the road. It had been permitted by the Parades Commission.

There were scuffles between nationalist and loyalist protesters and police during a parade in the same area last month, after a loyalist paramilitary colour party participated.

Elsewhere, the Killylea demonstration in County Armagh was the second largest outside Belfast.

The Independent Orange demonstration was held in Larne, County Antrim, where the Democratic Unionist Party leader, the Reverend Ian Paisley was the main speaker.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Gun victim linked to UVF
12 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Unrest at heart of Orangeism
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Ban on flashpoint Orange march
11 Jul 00 | UK
Curse of the anniversary?
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