Olympic torch forced into detour

Olympic torch forced into detour

Published Jun. 4, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

A protest by dissident Northern Ireland republicans Monday evening disrupted the path of the Olympic torch.

Grandmother and community activist Isobel Coote, 58, was carrying the torch through Londonderry, but as she headed for the city's Peace Bridge a clash between chanting protesters and police forced her into a detour.

Demonstrators shouted "SS-RUC!" — a reference to the Nazi SS unit and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the forerunner of the Police Service of Northern Ireland — as well as "Free our political prisoners!" and "Free Marion Price." One man was arrested during scuffles with police.

Protesters were supporting splinter group the Real IRA, a republican paramilitary organization that has been linked to terror attacks. Marion Price, a Northern Ireland dissident convicted of a fatal 1973 bombing, was arrested in 2011 for attending a memorial service for dead IRA (Irish Republican Army) activists.


Peace Bridge is intended to be a symbol of healing for a city previously torn apart by sectarian violence.

Speaking to The (London) Times, a protester said the Londonderry demonstrators did not intend to disrupt the path of the Olympic torch, rather they wanted their complaints heard.

The incident is considered to be the worst breach of security since the torch relay began 17 days ago. Mark Durkan, a lawmaker for the Social Democratic Labour Party, called the disruption "embarrassing."

Police were prepared for potential trouble in Londonderry in the lead-up to the torch's arrival. Authorities enacted raids in Bogside on Friday night, the location of the 1972 Bloody Sunday tragedy.

The Olympic torch is set to continue its route around the UK before the Olympic Games opening ceremony in London on July 27.