Northern Ireland news

'Wall of steel' helps loyalist parade pass off peacefully

A large steel barrier was erected beside the Short Strand ahead of the parade. Picture by Matt Bohill

A MAJOR Orange Order parade through Belfast to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme passed off peacefully last night.

Thousands of Orangemen and supporters took to the streets of east Belfast in one of the north's largest demonstrations to commemorate the Somme centenary.

A police 'wall of steel' lined the Albertbridge Road area near the nationalist Short Strand as the loyalist parade passed the flashpoint.

The huge steel cordon has been erected by the PSNI in recent years to separate residents and supporters of the parade.

The annual demonstration was one of more than 100 parades that took place across the north yesterday.

It comes just days after a proposed deal to end a long-running dispute between the Orange Order and a nationalist residents group in north Belfast collapsed.

The deal would have meant an Orange parade, prevented from returning to Ligoniel in 2013, would have been completed yesterday morning.

A loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue would then have been dismantled.

But on Tuesday the talks facilitators, Rev Harold Good and Jim Roddy, said that "despite some positive feedback", an agreement could not be found at this time.

Around 50 lodges and 40 bands were due to take part in the east Belfast parade, which was scheduled to leave Templemore Avenue at 7.30pm.

The annual parade was bigger than usual with No.6 District joined by Orange Order members and bands from around areas including Hillsborough, Holywood and Whitehead.

A wreath was laid in a short act of remembrance when the parade reached the war memorial on the Belmont Road.

Recent figures revealed that last year's east Belfast parade, which saw the erection of a steel security barrier along the Albertbridge Road near the Short Strand interface, cost more than £160,000 to police.

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Northern Ireland news