1 Oct 2012

Belfast parade passes peacefully

6:21 am on 1 October 2012

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in commemorations in Belfast to mark one of the most significant dates in unionist history.

Police mounted their biggest security operation in 20 years in the city on Saturday as Protestants marched to commemorate the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, a pact opposing Home Rule for Ireland.

Up to 30,000 people from eight loyal orders were taking part in the events, including a religious service and celebration at Stormont, the home of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, the BBC reports.

Protestant Unionist organisations, including members of the Orange Order, marched through Belfast to celebrate, twice passing a Catholic church where violence had recently flared up.

Northern Ireland's Parades Commission, which makes determinations on contentious marches, had placed restrictions on the part of the route past St Patrick's Church in north Belfast.

Hundreds of police officers were outside the church as about 2000 Protestants and bandsmen marched by without incident.

The signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 laid the foundations for the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland a decade later.