Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has appealed for calm over the Twelfth period following clashes in a number of areas of the North.
The Sinn Féin leader made the plea as thousands of members of the Orange Order prepare to take to the streets in cities, towns, and villages across the North for the annual July 12th demonstrations.
This year’s main parade in county Derry will be held in Limavady however a small number of Orangemen are expected to march across Craigavon Bridge this morning.
Recent contentious parades in various areas of the North have sparked clashes between rival groups and the PSNI, including at the weekend in Ballyclare when six police officers were injured and a number of vehicles set alight during the disturbances.
The Mid Ulster MP said it is “in the interests of everyone” that the North experiences a “peaceful summer.”
Mr McGuinness said strenuous efforts have been made towards community cohesion and said those efforts must not be derailed by violence.
“A lot of people have devoted many hours to ensuring that there is a bright future for us and our children,” he said.
The senior Sinn Féin politician said the recent violence which has flared following parades is not helpful. “As a government we are committed to creating a better future for all. Some recent events do not help,” he said.
He also said that the clashes have shown that the parading issue still needs to be dealt with. “Issues surrounding a small number of contentious parades need to be resolved,” he added.
Mr McGuinness called on anyone with influence in local communities to work towards the goal of a peaceful summer.
“I call on elected representatives, community leaders and indeed everyone in positions of authority within local communities to use their influence wisely this summer,” he said.
The Deputy First Minister’s pleas for calm was also echoed by First Minister Peter Robinson.
“While there can be occasions when feelings may run high, violence and rioting is not the answer,” Mr Robinson said.
“OFMDFM has been working extensively with community leaders and elected representatives to ensure calm.
“I call on everyone to take a step back and think of the consequences before doing something which you will later regret,” he added.
Senior figures in the Catholic Church and the Policing Board also appealed for calm ahead of today’s marches.
Meanwhile, ‘eleventh night’ bonfires were lit in a number of areas of the city last night, including in the Fountain estate where the bonfire included wooden pallets and doors as well as several Sinn Féin election posters and Tricolour flags. The Fountain bonfire was built close to the City Walls.
A number of smaller bonfires were also built in areas of the Waterside and were expected to be lit late last night.