Sinn Fein march stokes riot fears

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Tensions rose in Northern Ireland yesterday after Sinn Fein announced it will hold a nationalist march and vigil in Omagh this evening.

The decision, after the Orange march which led to rioting in Belfast last week, was criticised by unionists as a deliberate provocation at "a highly sensitive" time. They said it was illegal, because nationalists had not given the statutory seven-day notice for the march.

Their concern was fuelled by the fact that it will coincide with a loyalist parade in Omagh by the loyalist Blair Memorial Band. Sinn Fein said the march would express solidarity with nationalists on the Garvaghy Road and the Lower Ormeau road in Belfast, where riots broke out last week following the Orangemen's march in Drumcree. The organisers said they had changed the assembly point to avoid confrontation.

But a spokesman for the DUP, led by the Rev Ian Paisley, said: "This is typical of the Republicans. The accuse us of breaking the law, but they are deliberately flouting it at a very sensitive time." He added: "If it does go through loyalist areas it will provoke unrest. The biggest fear is that Sinn Fein is deliberately provoking loyalist paramilitaries to break their ceasefire." The move follows the discovery of a suspected bomb in Dublin yesterday, which brought the city to a standstill. A controlled explosion was carried out yesterday afternoon.

An RUC spokesman said: "The police will be monitoring the situation to prevent disorder as is our rule."