A major security operation will be in place across Northern Ireland today for the annual 12th of July Orange Order parades -  the highlight of the loyalist marching season.  

The Orange Order estimate that upwards of half a million people will either take part in or spectate at their parades at eighteen different locations across the North today. 

RTÉ reports that the largest will be in Belfast with six-hundred smaller feeder parades being held in Armagh, Tyrone, Derry, Antrim and Down. 

A substantial security operation will be in place with the PSNI on duty in various flash point areas. 

It is hoped that one of the most contentious parade routes in Ardoyne in north Belfast will pass off peacefully. 

Nationalist residents and the Orange Order have reached an agreement which both sides hope will reduce tensions in the area.