Bid to disrupt Apprentice Boys Lundy Day parade with hoaxes condemned
Those behind bomb alerts in Londonderry aimed at disrupting an Apprentice Boys parade have betrayed the people of the city, the SDLP leader has said.
Around 1,500 marchers and 30 bands took to Derry's soaked streets on Saturday to commemorate the shutting of the city gates in 1688.
A major security operation in the Waterside led to the evacuation of the train station and road closures, but police found nothing untoward.
However, PSNI commander for the area Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan asked people to remain vigilant.
The train station was cleared after claims a bomb had been left in the area, while Quarry Steps in the Spencer Road area was also cordoned off in a separate alert.
The railway line between Coleraine and Derry was closed while searches were carried out.
Those behind the alerts along the Apprentice Boys parade route were accused of betrayal by attempting to raise tension and diminish peace.
"Those who seek to disrupt that respect or diminish the process of reconciliation in this city with bombs or bullets have betrayed the people of Derry," said SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
"This is not about a divide between Catholics and Protestants, unionism and nationalism, or loyalists and republicans.
"The only divide in this city is between those who want to blow our peace apart and those of us who will stand together to protect it."
Sinn Fein Assembly Member Raymond McCartney said the alerts "do nothing for the image of the Derry as a forward-looking city".
"They have also caused disruption to city centre traders who were already experiencing a slower than usual day in the run-up to Christmas as a result of the Apprentice Boys parade," he said.
"Great strides have been made in recent years by the local community, the Apprentice Boys and the PSNI to ensure a respectful atmosphere and minimise disruption, and those efforts have been widely supported."
DUP Assembly Member Gary Middleton said the alerts "will have inconvenienced many local people and visitors to our city today, but they have achieved nothing".
"Londonderry has suffered enough at the hands of those who want to drag Northern Ireland back," he said.
A group of republicans protested against the parade, which ended without incident.
It was followed by the burning of an effigy of Lundy the traitor - Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Lundy - who was prepared to hand Derry over to King James as his army laid siege outside the walls.
In recent years the Apprentice Boys of Derry have been praised for leading the way in organising peaceful parades.
The weekend march commemorates the day in December 1688 when 13 apprentices shut the city gates to the advancing Jacobite army.
More than 10,000 people died in the 105-day long siege that followed.