Thousands of Protestant demonstrators defied a Government ban on parades in Londonderry on Wednesday (August 12), when they marched through the streets of the City.
Thousands of Protestant demonstrators defied a Government ban on parades in Londonderry on Wednesday (August 12), when they marched through the streets of the City. Later in a city park they heard right-wing Protestant leader William Craig denounce the Government and Prime Minister Major Chichester-Clark.
The demonstration by about 6,000 bowler-hatted and be-sashed members of the apprentice boys' association, a branch of the Protestant Orange Order, was the annual commemoration of a victorious Protestant defence of Londonderry against a besieging Catholic army 281 years ago.
The apprentice boys' association members were specifically recalling the defiant action of 13 apprentices in Londonderry in 1688 when they slammed the gates of the besieged city in the face of King James' troops when the city Governor was about to surrender. During the day there were initiations of new Order members, and a memorial service to the apprentice boys' memory, at which wreaths were laid.
Exactly a year ago, such a demonstration in Londonderry erupted into bloody Catholic-Protestant battles which spread to Belfast and other towns, and has since cost 28 lives with thousands injured in recurrent troubles.
A crisis point was reached this year when a crowd of demonstrators coming from a Church service suddenly rushed the security barriers, brushing aside a cordon of troops and police. They then formed up for a march to a rally in the Protestant part of the city.
The marchers ended up in a city park, where they heard a speech by right-wing Protestant leader William Craig, a former Northern Ireland Home Affairs Minister and strong opponent of Major Chichester-Clark's Government.
Security arrangements prevented any clashes with the Catholics during the main part of the day's demonstrations especially in the sensitive Bogside area, but later British troops were forced to use CS gas.
The gas was used when several hundred unruly Protestant youths attempted to march a second time in the city, across a bridge behind a band. The troops eventually stopped this demonstration, refusing to heed the requests of the youths.
One well-known casualty at the Protestant rally was the former United Nations Diplomat Dr. Conor Cruise O'brian, now a member of the Irish Republic's Parliament.
Attending the rally as an observer, he was attacked and beaten by a group of youths.