Tense weekend of rival marches begins in Northern Ireland
Catholics hold peaceful procession Friday
August 9, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT (0340 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- The world is anxiously
watching Londonderry as a weekend of rival marches between
Roman Catholics and Protestants was kicked off Friday night.
Friday's march by Catholics was calm after organizers agreed
to change the parade route to avoid a Protestant neighborhood
and a possible confrontation.
However, police told CNN they carried out a "controlled
explosion" of a "suspicious device" found on Craigavon Bridge
in Londonderry. There was no immediate word about the nature
of the device, and there were no reports of injuries.
Catholic Nationalist leaders, seeking to defuse tension,
decided to bypass the Fountain, one of the predominantly
Catholic town's most isolated Protestant districts. In doing
so, the 3,000-person march ended peacefully.
Catholics hope their action will produce a similar concession
from Protestant groups, notably the fervently pro-British
Apprentice Boys, who on Saturday will march to commemorate
one of the most famous Protestant victories over Catholics.
About 10,000 men are expected to participate. ( 1MB QuickTime movie of march)
The Apprentice Boys march through Northern Ireland's second
largest town every year.
The Protestant fraternal organization, open to men of all
ages, is named after 13 young Londonderry apprentices. In
December 1688, they bolted the town's gates to defeat the
approaching army of James II, the Catholic English king
deposed that year in favor of the Protestant William of
Catholics also plan to march Saturday to counter the
Apprentice Boys' procession.
Police protect Bogside
In preparation for the Protestant march, British troops and
police already have sealed off one contentious route -- a
section of the old city wall overlooking the Catholic
neighborhood of Bogside. Residents are covering their
windows with metal cages, just in case there is trouble.
The Catholics also urged Apprentice Boys groups marching in
other smaller towns Saturday to reroute parades away from
Catholic areas. In return, they said they would call off a
rally in the heart of the Bogside Saturday afternoon.
"It's just a nightmare, just one long nightmare," said one
resident, describing the tension.
Last month, Protestant marches in a neighboring town sparked
street violence that spread to Londonderry. A pub and shops
were burned, and one man was killed. It revived bad memories
of a conflict that many had hoped was ancient history.
For a year and a half, the people of Northern Ireland enjoyed
a cease-fire, the beginning of a peace process, and a visit
from President Clinton. There was hope in the air.
But, the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army, which wants to
end British rule and link up with the Irish republic, broke
the cease-fire in February by bombing a London office
Peace process uncertain
Their political wing, Sinn Fein, accused the British
government of negotiating in bad faith. Now, Sinn Fein says,
the peace process is in tatters.
"Well, absolutely, it's in ruins. But we are passionately of
the opinion that there needs to be a very serious attempt to
reconstruct a new peace process," Sinn Fein's Martin
"The town is too small for people not to get on, for
Catholics and Protestants not to live closer together," said
Protestant Jonathan Burgess.
Glenn Douherty, a Catholic, agreed. But he is worried that
recent events could erase the benefits of even their fleeting
"An awful lot of people have worked very hard to build trust,
and I'm worried that that's just going to disappear," he
said. "It's creating an awful lot of bad feeling, which I
think bad feeling lasts a lot longer than good feeling does."
People say they saw the beginning of an end to their
troubles. Most hope this summer's war of the marches doesn't
kill off any remaining chance for peace.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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