Belfast Telegraph

Contentious Antrim march is halted by bomb alert

One of the most contentious marches in Northern Ireland was halted last night due to a bomb scare.

Residents were evacuated from homes close to the Orange Hall in the tiny Co Antrim village of Rasharkin after a suspicious object was discovered behind the building.

Most of Main Street was cordoned off as the security alert got under way around 7.30pm, which was supposed to mark the beginning of the parade, organised by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band.

A number of residents were also evacuated from their homes.

Police asked “for the patience of everyone in the area” and said they would work to end the security alert as quickly as possible.

Scores of PSNI officers had been drafted in for last night's controversial parade.

At one end of Main Street, the main throughfare of the sensitive route, were the brethern, the bands and their supporters, in the middle stood the press and at the other end groups of protesters gathered in wait.

Army technical officers arrived at the scene shortly after 9pm and began to examine the device.

And, as night fell, there was no indication as to when the 40-plus bands would begin their annual march.

Initially the Parades Commission had ruled that the loyalist band could march through the village on their outward journey, but could not return to their assembly point by the same route.

This prompted DUP MP and Stormont junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson to predict violence as inevitable as “watching a car crash in slow motion”.

Many residents were then left infuriated when the Parades Commission, after negotiations with DUP representatives, agreed to an alternative return route.

Members of the predominantly nationalist Rasharkin Residents Assocaition also turned out last night to demonstrate their opposition to the parade organised.

The Parades Commission also gave the green light to the residents' protest against the event, with restrictions.

Shortly after 10pm the sleepy hamlet between Kilrea and Dunloy erupted with the sound of chanting.

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