Sporadic Violence in Northern Ireland on Annual Marching Day
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Police were attacked with firebombs, stones and bottles in mainly Protestant areas today, hours before the start of the annual Twelfth of July marches throughout Northern Ireland.
Protestants traditionally parade on the anniversary of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, when the forces of Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Irish-French army of the Catholic James II.
While no injuries were reported, the Royal Ulster Constabulary said nine people were arrested this morning when violence flared near traditional Twelfth of July bonfire sights in Belfast and other cities.
Security forces were put on alert throughout Northern Ireland.
The build-up to the parades has been tense this year after big Irish Republican Army bombings on the British mainland and rioting in mainly Protestant areas of Northern Ireland, which police described as the worst in years.
Nineteen parades were scheduled in Northern Ireland, the biggest in Belfast. One parade route goes through a Roman Catholic housing estate in Dungannon, 35 miles west of Belfast. Residents failed to convince the High Court to change the route.
Six people were arrested for rioting in the mainly Protestant town of Newtownards, 15 miles west of Belfast, police said. Police were pelted with stones and bottles, said a police spokesman, speaking anonymously in keeping with British custom.
In Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city, a 30-member gang hurled 17 firebombs during three hours of fighting with police. Police fought back with batons, and one person was arrested, the police spokesman said.
In north Belfast, two cars were set on fire when youths clashed with police. Two people were arrested, the Royal Ulster Constabulary said.
The head of the Catholic church in Ireland and the president of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, appealed over the weekend for calm.
Cardinal Cahal Daly called on the marchers to ″march only where they can do so with dignity, with regards to the rights and sensitivities of others, and with no hint of provocation.″
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams appealed to nationalists to be ″calm and vigilant during this difficult period.″