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Olympic Torch Crosses Irish Border To Dublin In 'Symbol Of Peace'

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The Olympic Torch has crossed the Irish border on an historic visit to the Republic on Wednesday in a symbol of the peace process.

Irish Olympic boxing medallists Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth took part in an early morning hand over ceremony.

The poignant moment was witnessed by Games chief Lord Seb Coe at a remote spot between Newry in Northern Ireland and Dundalk in the Republic.

Mr McCullough said: "I am from the Shankill Road in Belfast, I have never had any problems like religion.

"It is a major step for everybody, people are coming together.

"Boxing was always a sport where Protestant and Catholic came together."

olympic torch

Olympic silver medal winning boxer Michael Carruth (right) receives the flame from Olympic gold medal winner Wayne McCullough (left) during the ceremony to hand over the Olympic Torch at the border crossing between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Dubliners have been called on to line the streets of the capital as it tours the only city outside the UK after special permission was granted for the torch to leave the jurisdiction of the host country.

Jedward, jockey Ruby Walsh, former footballer Paul McGrath and Olympic winning runners Sonia O'Sullivan and Ronnie Delany will be among the 40 torchbearers taking part in the relay.

Crowds of local people watched and cheered as McCullough, who won welterweight gold in the 1992 Games, passed the flame to Carruth, who took bantamweight silver in the same tournament.

School children from both sides of the border lined up to watch the ceremony.

The Irish side had an Irish Wolfhound, his shaggy coat matted in the constant drizzle as well as people in period dress carrying replica swords and spears. They are enacting the Tain March, dressed as the army of Queen Maeve of Connaught and are in the area for several days.

Mr McCullough, who lives in Las Vegas, said he learned of his role in the relay from his wife at home, who had read it in the newspapers.

He carried the Irish flag in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and said it had been 24 years since he saw the flame.

"It is pretty awesome. This was something I was looking forward to all week, to do something cross-community and meet my good buddy Michael Carruth," he said.

"It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am honoured to be doing it.

"It was like going into the Olympic final again, you get emotional, it was almost like I was about to fight again."

There was amiable chat between Mr Carruth and Mr McCullough. Mr McCullough even planted a kiss on Mr Carruth's cheek, at the border - a nondescript point on the old Dublin Road with only a disused shed for a backdrop with a green hill in the distance.

Mr Carruth said: "It is fantastic, the torch is what is good about sport.

"It is a fantastic occasion for everyone, north and south of the border."

The Olympic torch relay was disrupted following a dissident republican protest in Northern Ireland earlier this month.

olympic torch protest

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

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. Though no one was injured, the torch had to be re-routed by about 100 yards. The trouble in Derry followed a day filled with cheer, as 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.