June 4 - The London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay has been disrupted for the first time on its 70-day tour of the UK 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.

The protest was not aimed specificially at the Torch but it caused anger among senior figures in the local community.

"We support anyone's right to protest but that has been abused here today in Derry," said Mark Durkan, who represents the Social Democratic and Labour Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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

Durkan claimed there had been an agreement not to disrupt the Relay.

Shoving with stewards broke out and police intervened to push the crowd of around 100 - half of them children - back.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) 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.

Police presence in the city was heightened over the Bank Holiday weekend after an attack on PSNI officers, which it was claimed was attempted murder.

They were also combing the grassy banks of the River Foyle close to the railway line.

Searches at homes in Nationalist parts of the city took place over the weekend.

Specialist police officers abseiled off the side of the Peace Bridge, which links the Nationalist and Unionist communities, to check its underside for devices.

Next year Derry will celebrate its title as City of Culture 2013, but recent dissident activity has clouded the city.

The Olympic Flame also today crossed Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and stopped off at the Giant's Causeway on the second day of its tour across Northern Ireland.

The Flame is due to spend five days travelling around Northern Ireland and Dublin as a token of closer Anglo-Irish ties following the Queen's visit there last year.

-Duncan Mackay

Source: www.insidethegames.biz


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