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Police yesterday prevented an Orange parade going through a nationalist flashpoint in Belfast. Royal Ulster Constabulary Land Rovers blocked the Ormeau Road bridge where a religious service was staged to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Orangemen wanted to parade to the city centre but security chiefs feared violence if the small gathering was allowed to cross the bridge into the Catholic area.

The demonstration passed off quietly but the Orangemen protested bitterly about the ban - the latest of a number in Belfast involving the Orange Order. Other controversial parades are planned between now and the run- up to the 12 July demonstrations. Last year there was a three-day stand- off between police and Orangemen in Portadown, Co Armagh after the RUC banned the parade from going through a Catholic area.