Thousands make torch welcome despite protest

The Olympic Torch was last night rerouted because of a dissident republican protest in Derry,

Police say one man was arrested during the protest close to the city’s Guildhall - just as the Olympic Torch was due to cross Derry’s iconic Peace bridge.

Shooting Starz Gymnast prepare for the Flame parade from Derry City Council's offices. (0506SL105) Photo: Stephen Latimer

Shooting Starz Gymnast prepare for the Flame parade from Derry City Council's offices. (0506SL105) Photo: Stephen Latimer

The Torch’s brief detour of some 100 yards saw the flame diverted past Guildhall Street onto Whittaker Street before rejoining the planned relay route.

Derry’s MP Mark Durkan said people in the city were “disgusted” by the protest after an otherwise celebratory day in the city.

“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.”

Earlier thousands of people lined the streets of Derry and the banks of the Foyle to catch a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the Olympic Torch.

Rain clouds threatened but ultimately the sun prevailed and it became apparent that nothing would dampen the Derry public’s enthusiasm.

Hundreds lined the Torch’s route around the city, while thousands more crammed into Ebrington Square and St Columb’s Park - the venue for a massive Olympic party last night.

Among those waiting for the Torch as it crossed Derry’s iconic Peace Bridge was Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. He said the torch’s arrival in Derry was hugely significant. “It is symbolic of the enormous change we have seen over recent years. It is wonderful that the island of Ireland is included in events that are so close to our shores.”

More than 60 torchbearers carried the flame yesterday, including Oakgrove principal Anne Murray-Cavanagh, whose daughter Nora, flew from England to see her mum carry the Torch.

“We are absolutely over the moon to have seen her carry the Torch,“ Nora told the ‘Journal’.

Among the other Torch bearers was Isobel Coote from Ballygawley who carried the Torch to the middle of the Peace bridge before handing over to 13 year-old Oakgrove pupil Meabh Fisher.

At the climax of last night’s concert at St Columb’s, twelve year-old Darrel Harpur, from Strabane - lit a celebration cauldron on stage at the event.