By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — There was minor violence at two parades in Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, while Belfast’s main parade was also controversial, with loyalists boycotting it and the City Council refusing to fund it.
In Kilkeel, Co. Down, DUP members and some loyalists clashed with marchers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians after the Parades Commission approved a march past a Presbyterian Church and a memorial to victims of the IRA.
The march took place only after a series of bomb alerts had disrupted its beginning. The RUC declared the devices elaborate hoaxes at around 3 p.m., enabling a delayed parade by the Holy Cross Accordion Band, Attical, to take place.
At least one demonstrator managed to slip through RUC lines and tried to grab the banner at the head of the parade. RUC members in riot gear moved in to keep the vocal crowd of around 50 loyalist youths back from the parade and a nationalist crowd of some 1,000 gathered on the other side of the street.
Loyalists attacked as the AOH parade approached a Presbyterian church and graveyard. The RUC, despite a heavy presence, failed to prevent some loyalists spitting on marchers in the parade.
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Martin Connolly of the Mourne Nationalists for Equality called the RUC’s failure to prevent trouble as a "travesty."
"The RUC has messed up again by not policing the situation the way they should have," he said. "But most of the blame must lie with loyalist politicians who have pulled the strings in Kilkeel."