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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK


Police hurt in Drumcree trouble

Troops prepared for the worst

Two people have been arrested and six police officers injured after minor disturbances at Drumcree in Northern Ireland.

The trouble flared after loyalist protesters broke through security fencing near St John's Catholic Church just before midnight on Monday.

Security forces were attacked with bottles and stones.

The Search for Peace
Police reinforcements were flown in and helicopter search lights, flares and dogs pushed the protesters back to Drumcree Hill.

Police say a catapult and ball bearings were found in a follow-up operation.

Orangemen are still maintaining a protest at Drumcree following a Parades' Commission decision to ban them from marching down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road on 4 July.

The local Orange Order had been planning to march from Drumcree church, just outside the market town of Portadown, as part of the traditional Protestant marching season.

The Orange Order and the wider unionist community, who want to maintain Northern Ireland as part of the UK, believe they are being denied their right to walk down a public highway.

Past violence

However, the largely Catholic nationalist community sees the march as an act of triumphalism and provocation.

In previous years, the situation at Drumcree has been seen as a catalyst for violence throughout the province.

But compared with last year, Monday night's violence was relatively minor.

An extensive security operation has been ongoing in the area since last week and is set to continue for the days and nights ahead.

The BBC's Peter Hunt: "A time for possible change"
More than 1,700 extra troops have been drafted into Northern Ireland because of the Drumcree situation, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been provided with water cannons.

Fields have been ploughed up, miles of barbed wire erected and sand bags used to dam a stream. This would enable it to be flooded to create a greater barrier between security forces and any protesters.

Spokesman for Portadown District Lodge, David Jones, said the violence was sad and regrettable.

He reinforced calls for anyone intent on violence to stay away and said there were no Orangemen involved in the disturbances.

Drumcree was quiet on Tuesday morning, but there is an air of unease in the area.

Rumours continue that the Orange Order has done a deal with the government and local residents believe that Orangemen could eventually walk down the Garvaghy Road.

The trouble in Portadown also follows the rerouting of another contentious Orange Order parade.

Orangemen have been prevented from passing through the nationalist end of the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast on 12 July, the pinnacle of the marching calendar.

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