Thousands of members of the Royal Black Institution were today marching in Londonderry’s city centre for the first time in seven years.
The Royal Black Institution last held its main county parade in Derry in 2001, when talks with the Bogside Residents Group were held through a groundbreaking model pioneered in the city.
The most senior of the loyal orders followed the same model as that used by the Apprentice Boys, who broke new ground by taking part in discussions chaired by leading business people.
This morning, following more low-key talks, unionist leaders in the city were optimistic that there would be no trouble as around 4,000 people walked through Derry’s city centre.
All of the loyal orders have reached agreement on marches around the once-controversial Diamond area of Derry and there has been no organised opposition and little trouble during any major parade in recent years.
Foyle MLA William Hay, who helped broker the original groundbreaking agreement, today said talks had been low-key this time and had been very productive.
He said: “A fair bit of work was done behind the scenes to make sure everything can pass off peacefully. It’s been a number of years since the Royal Black Institution held a main parade here, but all is expected to go well.”
Today’s march through the Maiden City is one of six demonstrations being held by the Royal Black Institution on the traditional Last Saturday.
Five of the six counties are hosting a demonstration, and Co Tyrone is hosting two separate parades.
Up to 40,000 participants were today expected to take part in the parades throughout Northern Irelande — 10% of them in Derry.
Thousands more were today lining the route that includes Duke Street and Bonds Street, Craigavon Bridge, Carlisle Road, Ferryquay Street, the Diamond, Bishop Street, the Fountain estate, Craigavon Bridge, Spencer Road, Clooney Terrace, and Limavady Road.
A second parade was today taking place in the North West. Sion Mills was hosting the smallest demonstration of the six, with a total of 30 preceptories from the surrounding border area congregating at the west Tyrone village.
The largest gathering was taking place in Dromore, Co Down where members of around 120 preceptories were marching through the town, accompanied by some 100 bands.
As usual, Belfast members were holding their annual demonstration outside of the city. This year, their parade venue is Portadown where a large contingent of visitors was expected from Scotland.
Members of the RBP were also on the march in Ballyclare and Dungannon.