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Northern Ireland news

Tens of thousands line streets for Twelfth of July parades

Enjoying the Twelfth of July celebrations in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

TENS of thousands of people lined streets across Northern Ireland to watch Twelfth of July parades.

The events, held in 17 locations, recall the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, when Protestant King William defeated the Catholic King James II in Co Meath in July 1690.

Former Ireland rugby captain, Brian O'Driscoll, was among those who attended the parade in Loughgall, Co Armagh, where the Orange Order was formed.

Mr O'Driscoll tweeted that he had travelled north of the border to film a documentary "outlining how rugby as a sport unifies the country".

In north Belfast, vehicles on the parade displayed special number plates beginning with "LOL" while dogs and babies alike sported Orange collarettes for the occasion.

Those eager to get the best view of the action lined the city centre route in deck chairs well in advance of the main parade and captured photo memories of the day by posing for 'Twelfthies' with family and friends.

While some came prepared with sandwiches and lemonade, others took advantage of the burger van - moved from its traditional spot on Royal Avenue due to the arrival of Caffe Nero - and ice creams which were on sale from early morning.

Groups of proselytisers mingled with the crowds, handing out pamphlets and tracts urging people to "repent and be born again".

Across from St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street - a flashpoint scene in recent years - the cartoonist Brian John Spencer immortalised the bands and marchers in paint as they made their way past the church and into the city centre.

The Republic's Tourism Minister, Brendan Griffin TD, attended the Belfast parade, which was momentarily halted to allow him to be presented with the gift of a tie.

Mr Griffin described the welcome as "a measure of how far we've come".

Before the march he held a breakfast meeting with senior Orangemen and figures from Tourism Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited Twelfth celebrations in Co Fermanagh when he was tourism minister in 2012.

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