There was a large-scale security operation surrounding two parades in Belfast yesterday afternoon - but both passed off peacefully.
A republican march in the north of the city during the afternoon almost coincided with a loyal band parade, and the potential for trouble was palpable as scores of armoured vans, officers in body armour and water cannon lined the area from the New Lodge to Carlisle Circus.
However, in the event the interface saw no violence.
By around 3.30pm the republican parade, by the Henry Joy McCracken Flute Band, had largely dispersed in the New Lodge neighbourhood after marching through the Ardoyne and Cliftonville areas.
As the afternoon wore on, a large crowd of loyalists developed outside the Orange hall on Clifton Street a short distance away, waving Union Flags and awaiting the return of the marchers from the City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter.
At the same time, nationalist protestors were congregating in smaller numbers lower down the road, with tricolours on prominent display.
Asked why they were at the Orange hall, John Lanigan, with the Greater Concerned Residents’ Group, said: “We, as people from the Protestant community, are going to stand here and make sure our loyal brethren get home safely. And once they do get home safely, they (the crowd) will disperse and go home.”
And this is exactly what came to pass.
As the marchers made their way from the city centre they passed a few dozen peaceful protestors, before being greeted by the loyalists outside the Orange hall and coming to a stop just opposite the Mater Hospital.
Chief marshal Sam McCrory, with Belfast Number 1 district of the Royal Black, said: “Everything went as planned. I was glad to see that everybody in attendance today, no matter where they were from, showed a bit of dignity and decorum.”
Although the nationalist protest was calm when the loyal marchers passed by St Patrick’s chapel (where they played Abide With Me) and headed up Clifton Street, he said there had been some friction earlier on in the route.
“We had a couple of incidents as we came through the town,” said the 58-year-old from the Woodvale area, adding that these consisted of “name-calling” on the Dublin Road and outside Primark.
He dismissed it as “just stupidity”, adding: “They think they can provoke something. Thankfully nobody got the hook into the mouth and caught the bait.”
He hoped the Royal Black parades scheduled for this coming Saturday would likewise be peaceful.