Parade deadlock resolved

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The Independent Online
An overnight parade stand off in the Co. Londonderry village of Bellaghy ended peacefully yesterday morning, when loyalist marchers and Catholic residents compromised on a curtailed route.

Following more than 15 hours of deadlock, 400 members of the Royal Black Preceptory, led by a single band, marched along the village's main street to the local Orange hall.

Rows of police in full riot gear stood by, together with crowds of local nationalists, as the parade was halted before it reached a mainly Catholic section of the village.

Afterwards, both marchers and Catholic residents laid claim to a moral victory, while the RUC described the outcome as a victory for commonsense. RUC Deputy Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan personally supervised the police operation.

The Royal Black Preceptory, known popularly as "the Black" and "the Blackmen," is closely related to the Orange Order, the main Protestant marching organisation. It is regarded as a senior branch of the Order, and has been described as the conservative face of Orangeism.

All sides are now taking stock of a marching season which included the traumatic stand off at Drumcree, Co Armagh last month. A three-person committee has been appointed to carry out a review of the parades issue in time for next year's marching season.

Meanwhile, a sectarian motive is suspected in the murder of a Catholic youth who was buried yesterday. John Molloy, who was 18, was found dying in a north Belfast street early on Saturday morning. He had been stabbed repeatedly.