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The BBC's Toby Sealey
"The atmosphere in Londonderry remains calm and peaceful"
 real 56k

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"This is still a protestant parade in a largely Catholic city"
 real 28k

Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Thousands attend Protestant parade
The Apprentice Boys walk around the city's historic walls
The Apprentice Boys walk around the city's historic walls
Thousands of members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry celebrated one of the biggest events in the Protestant marching calendar amid tight security on Saturday.

The parade passed off without major incident, despite an earlier bomb alert which closed a railway line leading to Londonderry.

The march, featuring about 15,000 Apprentice boys and supporters as well as 170 bands, went ahead after the two sides in the city struck a deal earlier in the week.

Rival nationalists and loyalists heckled each other during the parade.

Missiles were also thrown at marchers by nationalists and a number of bands broke restrictions on playing music around the cenotaph.

Garvan O'Doherty, co-chairman of the Derry talks
Garvan O'Doherty: Disturbances were "minor"

But Garvan O'Doherty from the Town Centre Management Group, which acted as a mediator in talks between the nationalist residents and the Apprentice Boys, described the disturbances as "minor".

"The Apprentice Boys, the Bogside Residents' Group and the police all tried to provide a platform where there would be no tension, and I think that's self evident on the ground," he said.

The march came a day after 500 lb of explosives were made safe after a vehicle had crashed through a checkpoint in the centre of Derry. It was later found abandoned in Donegal.

The RUC said they believed the explosives were planned for the city.

There have been a number of recent discoveries of explosives linked with the dissidents who are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and the current political process in Northern Ireland.

A bomb alert on the railway line hampered trains carrying hundreds of march participants bound for the city and alternative arrangements had to be made.

After the parade, RUC Superintendent Peter Sheridan said the police were "very pleased" with events in the city.

"This must be one of the most peaceful parades we have had in recent years," he added.

Alistair Simpson
Alistair Simpson: Hope for peace

Governor of the Apprentice Boys Alistair Simpson said he was "very happy" with events and the turnout.

"There was a good jovial mood, everybody was in a very happy mood.

"Everybody that said they would do their best to make it a quiet and peaceful day has done their duty."

Robin Percival of the Bogside Residents' Group said: "I think a few taunts here and there is only to be expected. We need to look on the positive side."

The Apprentice Boys demonstration every August commemorates the Relief of Derry from the forces of the Catholic King James II in 1689.

Local members of the association completed a circuit of the city's historic walls and held a pageant. A wreath laying ceremony and a religious service also took place.

The march was held after talks on Wednesday night between the Bogside Residents' Group and the loyal order about their parade in Derry achieved what was described as "understanding".

Mr Simpson said the Derry parades' deal brokered with nationalist residents provided hope for Northern Ireland and should be seen as an example of reaching an accommodation.

Both the Apprentice Boys and Bogside residents had appealed for trouble-makers to stay away from the parade.

Bogside residents spokesman Donncha MacNiallais
Donncha MacNiallais: "Agreement is not a victory for anyone"
In 1999, there were scuffles and minor injuries on the Ormeau Road in Belfast after nationalists attempted to block the march route and in Derry some businesses were damaged during disturbances in the city centre.

The Parades Commission imposed restrictions on a number of Apprentice Boys feeder parades on Saturday.

Among those affected were the lower Ormeau Road in Belfast; Bellaghy, County Londonderry; Dunloy, County Antrim and Castlederg, County Tyrone.

The parade on the lower Ormeau Road passed off without incident.

The commission also placed route restrictions on an Orange Order parade in Portadown, County Armagh, on Sunday, and some conditions on a nationalist march in Lurgan on Friday.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission was established in 1997 to determine whether conditions should be placed on contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Major NI bomb attack 'thwarted'
10 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
'Flagship parade deal provides hope'
07 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Ruling delayed on NI parade
03 Dec 99 | Northern Ireland
The Apprentice Boys' march
08 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Protestant Marches: A line in the sand
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