Northern Ireland

Olympic torch visits Enniskillen Castle and Marble Arch Caves

The Olympic torch has visited Enniskillen Castle and the Marble Arch Caves on the journey from Londonderry to Newry on day 18 of the relay.

Rain throughout the day failed to dampen the mood and supporters turned out along the 146-mile route.

The flame was taken into the caves, which lie 12 miles outside Enniskillen, by members of the relay security team.

Northern Ireland Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the relay was a "truly unique shared Olympic experience".

She said: "There have been many moments of inspiration, joy and poignancy. That is what people will remember and celebrate in years to come."

The first of Tuesday's 98 torchbearers was 46-year-old Gavin Bate, who carried the flame through Derry's Guildhall Square.

He took on a solo three-month trip across the Sahara Desert at the age of 21 that nearly cost him his life.

Sally Brown carried the flame through her home town of Ballykelly.

The 16-year-old was born without her left hand and part of her arm yet still went on to become the youngest competitor to win a medal at the 2011 IPC World Athletic Championships.

Since then she has gone on to receive a silver and a bronze medal at the BT Paralympic World Cup.

There was a special family moment just after noon when Derek Bowles passed the flame to his wife Yvonne, 56, who has been involved with the Girl Guide movement for more than 40 years, to take to Enniskillen Castle.

Image caption Sally Brown carried the flame through her hometown of Ballykelly

Later, three members of the Davis family from Lisburn, son Christy, daughter Ella and father Johnny, carried the flame in Fivemiletown.

In Portadown, teenager Philip Slater, a keen fencer who coaches the sport, passed the flame to his mother Alison who has multiple sclerosis.

The 16-year-old cares for Mrs Slater along with his siblings and has won the MS Society's young carer of the year award.

In Newry up to 50 protesters had gathered along the route but a large police presence prevented any trouble.

The chairman of the organising committee of the London Olympics, Lord Coe, said he did not think a dissident republican protest in Londonderry on Monday, which resulted in the Olympic torch being diverted, would have a negative impact on the relay in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in Newry on Tuesday evening, Lord Coe said freedom of speech was important.

"I'm sure that the torch in its way will shine the light on all sorts of issues around the country as the torch makes its journey - 8,000 torch bearers, 8,000 miles - and the overwhelming response of people is to celebrate local communities," he said.

Meanwhile, politicians condemned a republican protest which disrupted the relay in Derry on Monday.

SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan said the "wonderful occasion" had been "marred by the actions of a tiny minority".

"I have spoken to many people following the incident, all of whom have expressed disgust and even a degree of embarrassment at the incident," he said.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Gregory Campbell said the protesters were "pathetic".

"The minor inconvenience which it brought is not the major issue, it is not even the negative headlines that their actions bring to Northern Ireland which is the overriding concern, but it is the potential that their activities bring to the first ever UK City of Culture events next year," he said.

The day's relay ended when the final torchbearer, Ryan Cinnamond from Newry, carried the flame into the Páirc Esler for the evening celebration where a cauldron was lit.

On Monday, day 17 of the relay and the second of five days in Northern Ireland, the flame visited landmarks including the the rock formations of the Giant's Causeway and the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in County Antrim.

On 6 June , the torch will be carried to Dublin, Newry, Lisburn and Belfast.

Dublin is to be the torch's only detour outside the UK, apart from Greece, and while it is in the Irish capital a celebratory event will be held at St Stephen's Green.

On 7 June it will take in Newcastle, Dundrum, Clough, Downpatrick, Crossgar, Saintfield, Ballynahinch, Templepatrick, Antrim, Ballyronan, Magherafelt, Ballymena and Moorfields.

Later that day, the torch will leave Northern Ireland for Scotland.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame on its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey around the UK to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July.

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