Thousands attend loyal order march

A strong police and army presence surrounded the area

The main Apprentice Boys parade through Derry city centre has passed off without incident.

Thousands of loyal order members took part in the demonstration on Saturday to commemorate the Relief of Derry.

Three people were arrested for minor offences and others were noted for future prosecutions.

Earlier, a contentious feeder parade in north Belfast passed off without incident.

A Parades Commission ruling barred Ligoneil Walkers Club from marching passed the Ardoyne shop fronts and nationalist homes.

However, an amendment to the decision allowed the marchers and their band to be bussed through the area.

In Derry, a local drama group staged a re-enactment of the Siege of Derry firing off muskets ahead of the parade.

About 15,000 Apprentice Boys took part in the celebrations, which began when several hundred members, accompanied by three bands, paraded along the city's historic walls.

They were led by Apprentice Boys Governor William Allen who said local branches should have been allowed to march their chosen routes.

"I am a bit sad they couldn't get walking down Ardoyne," he said.

"They have done it for the past two years and it went peaceful.

"The Apprentice Boys will always keep within the law and they have not lost dignity by going down on a bus."

The loyal order also laid wreaths at the war memorial in the Diamond area and attended a church service at St Colm's Cathedral.

A number of petrol bombs were thrown at police in the Dunfield Terrace area of the Waterside.

The attack happened just after 1500 BST on Saturday.

One police vehicle was struck but there were no reports of any injuries.

Large screens were erected in the Diamond to keep rival gangs apart.

Local police commander Richard Russell said he was satisfied with the outcome of the demonstration but he was dissapointed with the behaviour of some bandsmen and nationalist bystanders.

He said video footage of the parade would be studied and prosecutions may follow.

Meanwhile, a van has been set on fire during a stand-off at an Apprentice Boys parade in County Londonderry.

It happened after about 100 protesters blocked Main Street in Maghera about 0930 BST on Saturday.

The police say the crowd refused to move to an agreed protest area and the Apprentice Boys agreed to turn back to avoid confrontation.

Tommy Cheevers, the Apprentice Boys spokesman in Belfast, condemned the decision to bar the order from the Ardoyne area and said the threat of violence from republicans had been given in to. He handed a letter of protest to the police.

"We are not in the business of bringing people out on the streets to cause trouble," he said.

"We are angry because no matter what we do we are being punished. Not for our own violence but because of republican violence."

However, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said he hoped the parade would set a precedent.

"If we could have this type of sensible approach every time there was a suggestion of a parade through these Catholic areas of Ardoyne and Mountainview, then things would be a lot smoother," he said.

"I hope this is a good sign for the future."

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