LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A Protestant group received approval Wednesday to hold a controversial march this weekend past a Catholic district in Londonderry.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission ruled that the Apprentice Boys could march Saturday past the Catholic Bogside district, but they could have only one band instead of eight.

The annual march of the 15,000-strong Apprentice Boys, commemorating the city's successful defense against a besieging Catholic army in 1689, has often fueled religious tensions with Catholics or street clashes with police.

Last year, despite restrictions agreed to by organizers of the parade and of Catholic counter-protests, the march turned violent, with some bottles and rocks thrown.

Donncha MacNiallais, spokesman for the Bogside Residents Group, called Wednesday's decision by the seven-member commission ``reckless and ill-judged.''

``We are going to make every effort to maintain an effective, efficient and non-violent protest but the parades commission decision has made that very difficult,'' he said.

Marches by various factions in Northern Ireland sometimes become catalysts for the sectarian strife that has plagued the province for decades. Those by Protestants through Catholic neighborhoods are especially contentious.

Last year, a high-profile march by the Orange Order, the largest Protestant fraternity, turned into a violent standoff between police and demonstrators after the marchers were blocked from proceeding down their traditional route through a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Portadown.