THE 12TH OF JOLLY; Parades pass off peacefully ..despite night of tension.
AN Orange march through a nationalist area passed without major incident yesterday despite a night of tension.
Two fireworks, a paint bomb and bottles were thrown at bandsmen and marchers on the Woodvale Road near Ardoyne in North Belfast.
It was feared that widespread violence could erupt after loyalists planted a tricolour with the words "F**k Mickey Bo" on an Eleventh night bonfire.
Mickey Bo was the nickname of murdered Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen, 15, who was killed in a sectarian attack in Ballymena, Co Antrim, in May.
Local politicians, Orangemen and the police all condemned the sick flag at Ahoghill, Co Antrim.
Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan said the displays were "disgraceful".
The North Antrim MLA added: "Local people were horrified at what can only be described as barbaric displays at bonfires across the Ballymena area.
"The family of this young man have gone through enough this year without having to hear about these sectarian displays of hatred directed toward their son."
Fred Cobain Ulster Unionist MLA for North Belfast praised both communities for their calm response to the Ardoyne march following the flag incident.
He said: "I'm very pleased with how it went. Hopefully this will set the standard for next year's parade but we'll take one year at a time."
Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan credited the largely trouble-free evening to discussions between communities.
She added: "Everybody should be happy with what has happened.
"The people of this community were very dignified. It's the down to people talking to each other and discussing things."
Yesterday was the first year since 1970 that the Army had left security for the Twelfth entirely to the police.
Observers said there was a lighter mood to this year's parades as the Orange Order attempted to portray the Twelfth as a family day. Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird, left, said he had printed Orange leaflets in Irish in a bid to reach out to nationalists.
Despite the drizzly weather, thousands of Orangemen and supporters attended rallies in 17 venues across Ulster.
At a demonstration in Portrush, Co Antrim, DUP leader Ian Paisley had harsh words for the Government.
He said: "Compromise, accommodation and surrender are the roads to irreversible disaster.
"Pushover unionism is a halfway house to republicanism."
Rejecting the Government's November 24 deadline for a deal to restore devolution, he added: "For true unionists the test is not on some date plucked out of the air by a discredited government." But SDLP senior negotiator Sean Farren criticised Rev Paisley's hardline rhetoric.
He said: "We know from hard and bitter experience not to look to Twelfth speeches for imaginative leadership or breadth of vision.
"But even by this sorry standard, Paisley's megaphone diplomacy is deeply damaging."
But politicians did unite to condemn the destruction of an Orange Hall in Lavin near Armoy, Co Antrim, on Tuesday. Local DUP Assemblyman Mervyn Storey said: "People set out to destroy an Orange Hall and I challenge republican leaders to condemn it."
Sinn Fein's Philip McGuigan said: "Attacks because of people's religion are wrong and must stop."
But the day was not without its lighter moments as Neil Davidson went down on one knee to propose to girlfriend Dawn Logan as they partied near the bonfire on the Shankill Road in Belfast.
MARCH: Orange parade winds through streets of Belfast yesterday' THREAT: Cops escort buses of Orangemen past Ardoyne' BANG: Firework is thrown near Ardoyne shops' TAUNTS: Nationalists jeer parade' COSTUME: Lord Laird in period dress' THE GOOD Neil Davidson proposes to girlfriend Dawn Logan at the Shankill bonfire' THE BAD Flag insults murdered Catholic boy Michael McIlveen at bonfire in Ahoghill' THE UGLY Orangeman inspects hall destroyed by arson at Lavin, Co Antrim, yesterday