THE controversial loyal order parade in Newtownbutler went ahead as planned last week despite pressure from protesters.

Blowing whistles and holding placards saying "Re-route your flute" and "Keep Newtownbutler Sectarian Free", nationalists lined up to say no to the parade.

But even after a fierce poster campaign across the county, which called on supporters to join the protest in their droves, their numbers fell short of what was expected.

Those protesting included Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew and her council colleague Thomas O'Reilly, chairman of the Newtownbutler Residents Group and the SDLP's Fergus McQuillan. There was also members of the Irish socialist republican group, Eirígí and a number of rival republicans in attendance, waving posters and blowing vuvuzelas.

Earlier on Friday, the Belfast High Court rejected a local resident's application for judicial review of the Parades Commission's decision.

Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew said she was there to be "a calming influence" while Fergus McQuillan said he "wasn't happy" at the parade taking place at all: "I don't like this type of thing. I am very disappointed that the bands were allowed to parade. It's very bad for Newtownbutler. A lot of the bands have come from far away to this parade and the only reason they have been brought here is to cause trouble," he said.

Supporting the loyal order parade included the DUP's Arlene Foster and Lord Maurice Morrow, plus Tom Elliott, Alex Baird, David Black and Policing Board member Basil McCrea of the Ulster Unionists. Former Police Chief Norman Baxter was also there, having "worked in the background" with the local community and the PSNI and political representatives in the run-up to the parade. He said the protest by the residents group was "regrettable".

"The local band in recent years have been committed to reaching an accommodation�to enable them to hold their annual�parade with minimal disturbance to local people.�For several months they�have�engaged�with both the representatives of the nationalist community and Parades Commission to resolve the problem.�A number of alternative routes were offered. Tentative agreements were reached on routes.�However, at each stage those who appointed themselves to speak�for local people moved the 'goal posts' and it has become clear that extremist elements now dominate with the intention to create community�tension and conflict," he said.

"I understand that within the 100 people protesting there are people from Armagh, Dungannon, Roslea, Kinawley, Clones and Monaghan. Why have they been brought here? The simple answer is to create the impression that there is huge resistance to the parade.�The truth is that the�majority of�people who live within the village respect each others traditions and want to live in harmony," added Mr. Baxter.

The Newtownbutler Border Defenders Flute Band was joined by others, including Magheraveely, Inver and Feugh Pipe band.

There was plenty of aggression in the air. Dozens of police officers lined the streets of the village as a helicopter hovered overhead. A sign hanging on a railing in the village calling on nationalists to protest was covered up by a draped Union Jack flag. Traditional Irish music played loudly over the sound of the beating drums -- and vice versa as each side tried desperately to drown out each other by getting louder and louder. It was a noisy couple of hours in Newtownbutler but trouble free, bar the occasional bout of finger gestures and sectarian chants from both sides.

Policing Board member Basil McCrea wouldn't discuss the large police operation: "I do know how many police are here but obviously you can't expect me to say. I have had a briefing; there is a flow of decision making depending on what happens and I'm pretty confident that the police have plans in place and know what they're doing. Any time you get a situation like this you don't know exactly what way it's going to pan out. I'm here to observe that operation and to see how things are on the ground," he said.

Afterwards, Arlene Foster said the loyalist bands had "stuck to what they said they would do" and "they didn't put up any flags or symbols along the route".

"The band has provided leadership here in Newtownbutler tonight. When we arrived we were confronted with signs about sectarianism and 're-routing your flute' and all the rest of it. Those were designed to try and intimate people coming here tonight. They just want their culture and nobody else's culture," she said.

Mrs. Foster also claimed that protesters broke rules: "They were suppose to be 30 metres back. There was a line put in the street and they have moved past that by some two and a half, three metres. They have been moving closer and closer. They are playing music which I don't think they have a performing rights certificate for but if they do, that's fine, we'll wait to see it if they produce it." She added: "To be fair tonight has been a bit of a damp squib from the protesters' point of view because they haven't got the crowds that they expected to get. They put up signs in Clones, in Derrylin, in Rosslea, calling for people to come here to protest. In actual fact they turned up with 75 people even though they were allowed 100 people. I take a positive from that, that people don't want to associate with that." The DUP Minister discussed the parading issue with some members of the community: "I've spoken to some of the protestants who live in the village. I was talking to one lady who was saying, well, where does my son go? He lives in the village does that mean he's not allowed to walk in the village? Does he not have rights as well? It is very sad that they are trying to push them out of the village. For years we had intimation in this village. There were protestants who lived here that had to leave. Now they're saying we've pushed you out and now we're pushing your culture out as well," she said.

Sinn Fein Councillor and Chairman of the Newtownbutler Area Residents' Association, Thomas O'Reilly praised the protesters, saying: "It was a very dignified and peaceful protest by the residents here. We don't want to see people coming out to protest here again. We want to see the dialogue that we've had for the last couple of years continue until we find a permanent solution to the parading in Newtownbutler. I am concerned that we have bands coming into the town that are clearly not welcome by the residents here. This influx in loyalist bands is not something we want to see. I'm hoping the negotiations that have been going on for the last while will pay dividends." Mr. O'Reilly added: "People here understand the protestant culture must be respected but it's not about bringing in loads of 'Kick the Pope' bands who are engaging in triumphalism. Certainly the finger gestures coming from some of the band members tonight was very evident of the attitude towards nationalists in Newtownbutler. But I would like to say that protestants are very welcome in Newtownbutler and for 11 months of the year we live and work quite happily alongside them," he said.

Éirígí spokesperson in Fermanagh, Kevin Martin said "several hundred" bandsmen and supporters had been bussed into the nationalist village.

"From early evening the Crom Road area was sealed off until after 10.30pm preventing any passage through for local residents. Throughout the day, armed members of the PSNI stopped and warned young nationalists not to attend the residents' protest that night otherwise they would be arrested. Stormont Minister and DUP member Arlene Foster also made her contempt for the nationalist community known as she stood in support of the loyalist crowd," said Mr. Martin.

In a statement, PSNI Chief Superintendent Michael Skuce said he was pleased the parade had passed off without serious incident: "That is largely due to a lot of hard work that went on beforehand behind the scenes."