From ........... Daily News Miner, Fairbanks, AK

August 10, 1996 A-8


The Associated Press LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland Protestants sang as they burned Irish flags early today in a merry prelude to a march that has Catholics and Protestants on edge in this divided city.

Protestants vowed to march past a Catholic district, even though Catholics rerouted a march Friday night to avoid parading near the Fountain, central Londonderry's last Protestant neighborhood.

About 200 Protestants gathered at a bonfire in the Fountain as they prepared to march along the city walls to celebrate a 17th century victory over Catholic forces.

Troops, barbed wire and barricades are in place to prevent violence. The British government ordered troops to seal off a 500 yard stretch of the wall that overlooks the Catholic Bogside district.

Police briefly allowed several Apprentice Boys through the cordon of corrugated iron and barbed wire at midnight so they could start their celebrations in traditional fashion by firing a small cannon mounted on the walls.

As it boomed out, several Protestant youths hurled bottles at police, but quickly were reprimanded by older colleagues.

Thousands of Apprentice Boys, the city's main Protestant fraternal group, were expected to parade through Londonderry today. The group is named in honor of 13 young apprentices who shut the city gates against besieging Catholic forces in 1688.

Apprentice Boys from across the province will parade from their own towns and converge in central Londonderry, where they will attend a church service.

Police on Friday night exploded a suspicious package on the Craigavon Bridge, a major route into the city.