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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 20:35 GMT

Another victim of Drumcree?

Rosemary Nelson: Said Drumcree had damaged Portadown relations

Northern Ireland solicitor Rosemary Nelson was well known for representing several leading nationalist causes in the mid-Ulster area.

The BBC's Derek Drawshaw: Mrs Nelson was well known in the community
Sinn Fein says her life had been threatened before her death in a car bomb attack in Lurgan, County Armagh.

The solicitor's work with the residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown attracted her the most attention.

[ image:  ]
And it is Mrs Nelson's high-profile role in this bitter dispute that is inevitably being put forward as the main reason behind her murder.

The row over the Orange Order's traditional route from Drumcree church down the Garvaghy Road has gone on for the best part of a year.

Last July's march was banned by the government-appointed Parades Commission.

The decision led to a long-running stand-off between Orangemen and security forces at the church, and widespread disorder across the province.

[ image: Mrs Nelson in Downing Street following January's meeting with Mr Blair]
Mrs Nelson in Downing Street following January's meeting with Mr Blair
Mrs Nelson represented 200 Garvaghy Road residents seeking compensation from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and met Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss the matter in January.

On the morning of her death the Irish News quoted her as saying the affair had left community relations in Portadown in tatters.

If Mrs Nelson's death is eventually linked to the Drumcree stand-off, she will not be its first victim.

Days after the march's traditional date, three young brothers died in Ballymoney, County Antrim, when a firebomb was thrown through their window.

[ image: Three boys died when a firebomb was thrown into this house]
Three boys died when a firebomb was thrown into this house
Mrs Nelson ran a large legal practice in Lurgan, the town in which she was born and lived with her husband and three children.

Among her clients was Colin Duffy, who was accused of the murders of two policemen in the town in June 1997, before charges were dropped.

He was previously charged with the Lurgan murder of former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier John Lyness but was freed on appeal.

Mrs Nelson also represented the family of Robert Hamill, a Catholic beaten to death by loyalists in Portadown town centre in 1997.

And she recently joined lawyers expressing concern about alleged security force collusion in the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.

He was shot dead at his north Belfast home in 1989 by the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters although security force collusion has been alleged.

Harassment and threats

Mrs Nelson had herself complained of security force harassment on several occasions.

Sinn Fein said she was aware of a threat to her life and that there had been a high-level security force presence in her local area in recent days.

[ image: Trouble at Drumcree last summer]
Trouble at Drumcree last summer
The party's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, said this attack followed "the same pattern" as that of Mr Finucane's death.

But Pat Vernon, a solicitor who works for Mrs Nelson's practice, was unaware of any specific threat.

"I'm absolutely devastated," he said. "I'm disgusted any human being could do this to another."

Mrs Nelson was a graduate of Queen's University in Belfast and believed to be in her late 30s.

She was married to Paul, an accountant, and had three children, including two boys aged 13 and 11 who are thought to be abroad on a skiing trip.

Their eight-year-old daughter Sarah was at Tannaghmore primary school, within audible distance of the explosion that killed her mother on Monday lunchtime.

Mrs Nelson is thought to have spent the weekend in County Donegal with her husband and it is understood her car had stood unattended outside her home.

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