A day of high tension in Northern Ireland passed on Wednesday without the feared violent confrontation between Protestants and Catholics.
A day of high tension in Northern Ireland passed on Wednesday without the feared violent confrontation between Protestants and Catholics. July 12th is a traditional occasion for Protestant parades. This year, 17,000 British troops and several thousand police patrolled potential trouble spots to keep the two sides apart.
In Belfast and Portadown -- 25 miles (40 kms) from the capital -- the security forces largely succeeded in their mission. Fears of a major confrontation had been increased by three overnight killings. Two youths were shot dead, one a Protestant in Portadown and a catholic in Belfast. The third victim was a man of about 25, whose body was found in Belfast just before the parades started.
These annual Orange Day marches celebrates the victory of the Protestant William of Orange over the Catholic King James 11 in 1690.
In Belfast, most of the city's Catholic population remained in their own districts, five of which were sealed off by freshly-erected barricades. Troops and police patrolled in force as the 25,000 Protestants marched throughout the city.
Portadown was regarded as one of the worst potential trouble spots because the Orange marchers insisted in passing through a Catholic area. Despite the presence of commandos of the Protestant Ulster Defence Association, (U.D.A.), masked and armed with clubs, no incidents were reported.
SYNOPSIS: The traditional Orange Day parades of the Protestants in Northern Ireland caused now fears of a violent confrontation with the Catholics on Wednesday. Throughout the province, seventeen-thousand British troops and several-thousand police patrolled in an effort to keep the two sides apart. Here in Belfast, the tension had been increased by two killings by gunmen during the night.
These marches celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, when the protestant William of Orange was victorious over the Catholic King James the Second. In Belfast, about twenty-five thousand Orangemen took part. Heavy rain kept numbers lower than in some previous years. A total of ninety bands whipped up fervour among those who did march in the parade. But on this occasion, Belfast's Catholic population stayed behind the barricades of their own areas, and the feared confrontation didn't materialise.
The objective of the marchers was rallying point just outside the city. There, and at rallies throughout the province, speakers condemned Northern Ireland's administrator, Mr. William Whitelaw, for attempting direct negotiations with the Irish Republican Army.
The town of Portadown, twenty-five miles from the capital, was expected to be one of the biggest potential troublespots. Here, too, there had been a killing during the night. A Protestant youth had been shot dead.
Tension was increased because the marchers insisted on passing through a Catholic area. But once again the security forces kept control and there was no further bloodshed.