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The BBC's Yvette Shapiro
"Boulders and stones were thrown at the security forces"
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Sunday, 2 July, 2000, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
Security fears at Drumcree
Scuffles took place at police line
Scuffles took place at police line
Nationalists have urged the Irish Government to put pressure on Britain to step up security after Orange Order leaders call for hundreds of thousands to support the Drumcree protest.

A march by more than 1,000 members of the order near the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road area of County Armagh passed off peacefully with only minor scuffles on Sunday.

Orangemen hand a letter of protest to police
Orangemen hand a letter of protest to police
But following the march Portadown District Master Harold Gracey called on the people of Northern Ireland to "get off their bellies" and protest against the Parades Commission decision to bar marchers from the Garvaghy Road.

Many Garvaghy Road residents oppose Orange parades through the area - believing them to be triumphalist and insensitive - and the order has been banned from walking there since July 1998.

But Orangemen say marching down the Garvaghy Road is a long tradition and claim local objections have been whipped up by republicans.

The Garvaghy Road residents' group appealed to the Irish Government following Mr Gracey's speech.

"If they don't get up off their bellies before it is too late this country will be gone."

Harold Gracey
Mr Gracey said: "This battle is not just about Drumcree. This is about the Orange order. It is about the Protestant people. They used to be on their knees, now they are on their bellies.

"If they don't get up off their bellies before it is too late this country will be gone."


Earlier, the Orange Order handed in three letters of protest at the Garvaghy Road ban.

One of the letters said Orangemen would continue their protest at Drumcree until they were allowed to march the road.

Thousands marched through Portadown
Thousands marched through Portadown
Earlier, a huge security operation greeted Orangemen as they made their way from Portadown for a service at Drumcree Church.

Hundreds of supporters who could not fit inside the church staged an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with riot police officers who had blocked off access to the Garvaghy Road.

A few stones and a stepladder were thrown at RUC vehicles but the police line was swiftly reinforced and 50 officers linked arms to prevent the crowds pushing forward.

Ball bearings and fire crackers were hurled at police lines as the evening wore on. But there were no reported casualties and police and troops did not retaliate.

Parade verdict awaited

As dusk approached the number of protesters on the hill by the church swelled to several hundred and police brought in generator-driven searchlights ready to illuminate the area once darkness fell.

The Portadown lodge has been banned since 1998 from returning to their hall via the nationalist Garvaghy Road and will be awaiting a verdict from the Parades Commission on Monday on whether they will be allowed to march through the disputed territory this year.

Sunday's march is seen as a prelude to next week's main march to Drumcree by Orangemen for a church service commemorating those killed in the Battle of the Somme during World War One.

Northern Ireland's sectarian tensions intensify each year in the run-up to12 July after three months of province-wide marches celebrating Protestant battlefield victories that nationalists see as provocative.

The date marks the victory of William of Orange, leader of the Protestants, over the Catholic forces of King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

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See also:

02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Appeal for Drumcree calm
01 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Garvaghy parades spokesman arrested
01 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Protestants prepare to march
30 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
'Nothing new' in parade proposals
20 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Early Drumcree solution 'unlikely'
23 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree marching dispute appeal
27 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree parade is re-routed
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