Clashes with republican youths preceded and followed the annual parade by the Apprentice Boys in Derry on Saturday, but the PSNI police has said they are pleased that the main parade passed off without greater incident.
Up to 10,000 members of the unionist organisation and 130 bands took part in the annual parade, which marks a 17th century Protestant battle victory over Catholics. Up to a thousand members of the PSNI were on hand to police the march.
Triumphalist marches through the heart of the predominately nationalist city and around the city walls, overlooking the working-class Bogside district, have long been contentious. However, nationalist opposition to the marches has diminished in recent years following dialogue between the Apprentice Boys and local residents groups.
Nevertheless, despite Sinn Féin appeals for calm, some fifty petrol bombs were thrown at police in the area on Friday night. During the violence two stolen cars were burned at the area known as Free Derry Corner in the Bogside.
There was also an incident following the parade, when one petrol bomb and a number of stones were thrown before the PSNI moved in and made arrests.
Leading Apprentice Boy William Hay said that this was the third year the parade had passed off largely peacefully.
“I am pleased that there has been relatively little trouble,” he said.
“It is good to see this happening and there has been a lot of work put into this. This has been one of the quietest days and we want to see more of this in the future.”
Nationalists protested in Castlederg against two contentious feeder parades by the Apprentice Boys before and after the main Derry parade.
Residents in Ferguson Crescent held a protest as the morning parade passed through while residents of Lurganbuoy Road held a protest as the parade returned in the evening.
West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has asked the Parades Commission to review its original decision to allow the contentious route through the nationalist village.
“There is also serious local concerns about the alternative route which the commission is proposing for the evening parade. Its effect will be to create another area of contention in the town.
“Much effort has been made not just in Castlederg but through the Six Counties to maintain a peaceful marching season this year. It seems insane that, at this stage in the summer, for the Apprentice Boys to march along these contentious routes in Castlederg when their main focus should be the parade in Derry,” Mr Doherty said.
“Nationalists living adjacent to the parade route on the Lurganbuoy Road have filed for a similar protest in the evening. Tensions are being deliberately raised in Castlederg for no good reason.
“These are two feeder parades. The Apprentice Boys’ attention should be focused on their main parade in Derry, over which local accommodation has been reached, rather than seeking to march along contentious routes in places like Castlederg. A public meeting will be held in Castlederg tomorrow [Friday] night, which will provide an opportunity for local people to express their views on Saturday’s proposed parades.
“Once again, I would appeal to the Apprentice Boys to show civic leadership and move to reduce tensions in Castlederg by restricting their parades to non-contentious routes,” Mr Doherty added.
And in a joint statement from groups representing residents and marching orders, regarding an Apprentice Boys parade on the Crumlin Road on Saturday, it was agreed that the proposed parade would proceed “according to a format to be agreed between representatives of the two communities”. The APDG would also voluntarily withdraw any formal opposition to the proposed parade.
It was also agreed that from September, both sets of representatives “commit themselves to a wider and intensified process of discussion and consultation”.
It was also agreed to “proactively explore” a lasting resolution to the problems associated with evening parades.