Quiet start to marching season
Quiet start to marching season

There has been no violence at the beginning of the Protestant ``marching season'' in Ireland, with a number of previously contentious parades passing off peacefully.

A small group of nationalists protested peacefully in north Belfast against a march by the Apprentice Boys' organisation past the strongly republican Ardoyne area.

Up to 60 Apprentice Boys and an accompanying band paraded past Ardoyne shops shortly after 8.30am.

Sinn Féin representatives marshalled the protest at what has been seen as a provocative sectarian display through the community. A low-key police presence in Ardoyne on Sunday morning helped ease tensions.

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly welcomed the fact that yesterday's march passed-off without incident.

``Nationalists are happy this parade passed-off peacefully and we hope that we can build on relationships to ensure the rest of the marching season does not cause trouble.

``At the end of the day the only way this issue can be resolved is by the loyal orders talking to nationalist residents.

``In the last two months there has been a series of attacks on nationalist homes in north Belfast but we are pleased this march did not lead to violence and we hope this is a good sign for the rest of the summer.''

Apprentice Boys spokesman Tommy Cheevers said he was delighted with the outcome of yesterday's parade.

``I think this morning's march showed that both sides accept that we have to act responsibly and that we are all accountable for our own actions.''

The Parades Commission, which makes decisions on controversial marches, imposed restrictions on a number of events.

In the south of the city, marchers were prevented by the PSNI police from crossing Ormeau Bridge and parading along the lower Ormeau Road on their way to joining the main rally. It was the 10th year the march had been rerouted.

Republican rallies across the North also all passed off without incident.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News