Belfast Telegraph

Apprentice Boys back in Lurgan town following a 20-year gap

By Claire McNeilly

Just hours after republicans threw petrol bombs at police and a van was set on fire on the railway line in Lurgan, Apprentice Boys were holding their first Easter Monday parade in the town for 20 years.

Despite the tense build-up in the mid-Ulster town, the parade passed off without incident yesterday - albeit with restrictions.

The landmark Shankill Parish Church, which marks an invisible border between the town's nationalist and loyalist areas, was again a focal point yesterday as the main parade, featuring 61 bands and thousands of followers, approached, filling the area with noise and colour.

A Parades Commission determination made it clear that bands comprising the main parade were not to go around the church, although the earlier host parade was permitted.

A carnival atmosphere ensued for the 90 minutes or so it took the bands to complete their route on a cold early afternoon that remained mostly overcast.

Occupants of Union Jack deck chairs were sitting on the pavements, alongside people in wheelchairs and children in prams and buggies, most of them waving red, white and blue batons and flags.

Mother-of-three Amanda Russel, a homemaker from Moira, said she had brought her three children - Bradley (13), seven-year-old Ellie and Dalton (3) - along to watch the bands.

"It has been a great day so far and we've really enjoyed ourselves - apart from the fact that it's absolutely freezing," she said.

There was a heavy police presence, but there was no trouble and any tension evaporated.

Meanwhile, an Apprentice Boys of Derry parade passed by Ardoyne shop fronts yesterday without incident.

Belfast Telegraph

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