Police say Apprentice Boys parade in Derry most peaceful in 15 years

 

Police in Derry have described Saturday's Apprentice Boys parade through the city centre as the most incident free in the last 15 years.

More than 12,000 Apprentice Boys, accompanied by 117 bands, paraded through Derry for two hours to mark the 316th anniversary of the Relief of Derry.

The parade, the culmination of a week-long series of events staged by the Apprentice Boys, was preceded by a pageant staged by the Crimson Players which re-enacted scenes from the 1689 siege of Derry.

Most of the shops along the city centre route were closed for the day.

There were also less than a few hundred spectators for the west bank section of the parade, but thousands of people watched the Apprentice Boys as they progressed through the Waterside area of the city.

Almost 700 PSNI offices were on duty, most of them positioned in the city centre which in recent years has been the location of sectarian confrontations during the parade.

However, in a noticeable departure from previous years, very few nationalist youths were in evidence in the Diamond for the main parade.

Eight people were, however, arrested for public order offences when rival nationalist and loyalist youths threw several bottles at each other at the end of the parade.

The police said they had also reported seven of the parade bands to the general committee of the Apprentice Boys for what a spokesman described as "confrontational and provocative behaviour".

PSNI Supt Johnny McArdle said that overall he was delighted with the day's events. "It was the most trouble-free and incident- free in the last 15 years.

"OK there were a few minor incidents but when you compare it to some of the trouble we had on this day in recent years, we've come a long way," he said.

Meanwhile in a separate incident, residents in the Brandywell area forced hijackers off a bus they had forcibly taken over.

The incident, in Lone Moor Road, happened during the parade. A gang of masked youths boarded the bus and forced the woman driver and passengers off before attempting to set it on fire.

However, about a dozen residents came from their homes and chased the masked youths away and then put out the fire before the vehicle was recovered by Ulsterbus.