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Olympic Torch Re-Routed After Dissident Republican Protest In Northern Ireland

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The Olympic torch relay has been disrupted following a dissident republican protest in Northern Ireland.

One man was arrested after minor scuffles with police as the flame was about to pass the peace bridge linking the divided communities in Londonderry. Nobody was injured.

The torch was re-routed by about 100 yards.

olympic torch protest

Dissident Republicans tussle with PSNI Officers near the Peace Bridge in Derry City

SDLP MLA Mark Durkan said: "We support anyone's right to protest but that has been abused here today in Derry.

"People are just absolutely disgusted that there will be negative headlines for the city coming out of a great afternoon."

Mr Durkan said there had been an agreement not to disrupt the relay. The protest was not aimed at it, but shoving with stewards broke out and police intervened to push the crowd of around 100 - half of them children - back.

olympic torch

Disruption: The Olympic Torch is escorted to safety

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said several dissident republicans were involved.

"Due to a protest that took place at the rear of the Guildhall this afternoon, the torch was diverted past Guildhall Street on to Whittaker Street where it continued on to the peace bridge," she said.

One man was arrested and there were no injuries. The protest has dispersed and was not related to the torch.

Londonderry, where this evening's celebrations were held, has had problems with dissident republican violence and security was tight - an explosive was thrown at police in an attempted murder bid over the weekend. It will be UK City of Culture next year.

The bridge has been built between a disused army base on the shores of River Foyle in a predominantly unionist part of the city and the other, nationalist, side.

Isobel Coote, 58, from Ballygawley, who was nominated for being an inspirational mother and grandmother, employer, community organiser and friend, carried the flame to the middle of the bridge where she handed it to Meabh Fisher, 13, from Londonderry.

Ms Coote said: "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Meabh said: "I enjoyed it, it was a great experience."

She was nominated for her bravery in fighting a permanent health condition.

She was born premature and has serious health problems. Despite this, she has attended mainstream school at Oakgrove integrated primary school in Londonderry.

The school and her parents have persisted and brought her successfully through her tough formative years.

The trouble in Derry followed a day filled with cheer.

The torch shone a light on Northern Ireland's dramatic north coast on the second day of its journey around the region.

World Heritage site the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge were among the highlights.

There were spectacular scenes as the flame was held at the Causeway World Heritage site's hexagonal columns of rock, while it was hoisted aloft by Denis Broderick as he dangled high above the Atlantic on the rope bridge between two cliff faces.

The torch started its relay proper from Coleraine, Co Londonderry, and continued through villages and towns including Limavady to Londonderry city.

It crossed the River Bann in a boat. Seamus Reynolds carried the torch with an eight-man rowing team. He was picked because of his work in the community.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Gregory Campbell said the protesters were pathetic.

"The minor inconvenience which it brought is not the major issue, it is not even the negative headlines that their actions bring to Northern Ireland which is the overriding concern, but it is the potential that their activities bring to the first ever UK City of Culture events next year," he said.

"It is clear they are not going to be reasoned with, therefore the response from within their own community must now be swift and unequivocal and the security response to dealing with their efforts will need to be reviewed after today's outcome."

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Pictures Of The Day: 4 June 2010
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