Pipe bomb found near Belfast playground

Police in Northern Ireland are keeping a wary eye for signs of trouble during the Orange marching season, which is in full swing and will reach its traditional climax on July 12.

Although tensions are generally lower than in previous parading seasons, recent rioting around the Short Strand area of east Belfast has served as a reminder that trouble can flare unexpectedly.

In Co Tyrone, police condemned dissident republicans who left a pipebomb near a play park in Strabane. The device, described as viable, was found on Thursday after police received a telephone warning that a device thrown at the town's police station on Wednesday had failed to explode.

Chief Inspector Andy Lemon said: "Had a young child lifted this, this device was so large, it doesn't bear thinking about. The threat in this area has been severe for some time, and the officers are carrying out a number of security checks."

In Co Fermanagh, an Orange hall was destroyed by fire early on Friday. Police have not confirmed an Orange allegation that the fire brigade was deliberately diverted away from Inver Orange Hall, in Roslea, by another call.

Orange Order official Drew Nelson said: "This hall played an important part in local life. This is an attack on Protestant and Orange culture in the area and is a very worrying development."

Orangemen in the Portadown area of Co Armagh have announced that they are to double their weekly protests against the long-standing ban on their once-traditional march along the town's nationalist Garvaghy Road.

The ban has remained in place for 14 years following widespread disturbances during the 1990s which led to several fatalities.

Each week a small number of Orangemen stage a ritual demonstration against the prohibition.

The police response is as token as that of the Orange Order, usually taking the form of a single officer who formally acknowledges the protest.

A spokesman said Orange brethren were "absolutely outraged" at the Parades Commission, the body which oversees marches, because it was "all so one-sided".

Sinn Fein accused the Order of deliberately heightening tensions in the run-up to the annual marches.

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