Orangemen march towards a
security barrier

About 2,000 members of the Orange Order filed through the town of Portadown, southwest of Belfast.

Almost 2,000 troops and police were in place as part of the security operation for the event, which has sparked clashes in recent years between loyalist Orangemen and Catholic Nationalists.

The Protestant Orange Order organises nearly 2,000 summer marches across  Northern Ireland to commemorate the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholics of James II in 1690 in Ireland.

Soldiers again erected a steel barrier to prevent the Orangemen from filing along the Drumcree Church down the mainly Catholic Garvaghy road, while fences of razor wire were strung up across nearby fields.

Peaceful march

But this year the Orangemen organising the march hoisted a ribbon in front of the barrier and asked members not to pass any further.

Local Orange Order leader Nigel Lawson handed a letter of protest to police at the barrier, urging them to “remove this hideous barrier and your men”.

But the marchers did not try to force their way through as they did last year, when youths threw stones at police who then fired plastic bullets into the crowd, resulting in injuries on both sides.
 
The Drumcree march also commemorates the 1916 battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest of World War I in which many soldiers from Ireland died.

This year’s march came as the governments of Britain and Ireland struggle to breathe life back into the province’s peace process, after London postponed elections for a new Northern Ireland assembly until late this year.

The march has been a flashpoint
for sectarian violence for years

The power-sharing assembly and executive, set up under the 1998 Good Friday accords, were suspended last October amid allegations of spying by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the main Catholic paramilitary movement in Northern Ireland.


'Model peace deal'

Meanwhile, former US President Bill Clinton said in northern Ireland on Sunday that despite setbacks, its peace deal was a model for the world.

Clinton was one of the chief architects of the 1998 Good Friday agreement designed to end 30 years of Protestant-Roman Catholic fighting. He was speaking to a university audience in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Clinton admitted the peace deal had hit some snags, with the suspension last year of the power-sharing institutions that are its key element, but he said this would not last.

“I ask you to stay on course and lead the world by your example,” he said.

Clinton said in the long term he felt Northern Ireland had the political will to resolve its differences and that it was much better off than other world trouble spots hit by ethnic conflicts.