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Thursday, July 9, 1998 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK

No 10 talks fail to break deadlock

Orange Order leaders: Impasse continues

Leading members of the Protestant Orange Order in Northern Ireland have met the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as the crisis over the traditional Drumcree march, banned from entering a Catholic area, continues.

Orangemen at Drumcree tell Joe Paley: "We are here to stay"
The delegation described the meeting at 10 Downing Street, which lasted 90 minutes, as "full and frank".

They will now report back to colleagues, who are in their fifth day of protests in Portadown, before deciding on the next move.

They said the "impasse" continued. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble is meeting leaders of the Protestant Orange Order in Belfast in the latest round of talks aiming to solve the Drumcree stand off.

The order's supporters gathered outside Belfast's government buildings during Thursday.

The independent Parades Commission banned the Protestant march from entering the nationalist Garvaghy Road on Sunday.

In turn, the Orange Order, which represents tens of thousands of Protestant loyalists, says it will not accept any change to its traditional route and has camped behind barricades erected by security forces.

[ image: Denis Watson: Reporting back to members]
Denis Watson: Reporting back to members
While they have held a largely peaceful protest at the entrance of the Garvaghy Road, watched by hundreds of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and the British army, loyalist violence has erupted throughout the province in protest.

Earlier, a senior member of the Orange Order warned that unless the government reversed the ban on the march, the combined forces of unionism could "paralyse the province within hours".

David McNarry: "We will walk the Queen's highway"
Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, David McNarry, of the Order's strategy committee, said that Tony Blair would be responsible for the "consequences of his actions".

He said: "If (our members) are to be so scantly treated, we could, if we wish, put our minds to paralysing this country within a matter or hours".

Northern Ireland's cross-community Alliance Party immediately accused Mr McNarry of attempting to raise tension ahead of the height of the Protestant marching season.

No violence plea

[ image: Rev Bingham:
Rev Bingham: "Orangeman oppose violence"
But speaking after the meeting at Downing Street, the Orange Delegation refused to be directly drawn on Mr McNarry comments.

Denis Watson, of the Armagh Orange Lodge, called for members to carry out peaceful protests and avoid any action that would bring "discredit" on the Order.

His colleague, the Rev William Bingham, said: "Any kind of violence totally undermines the Orange Order's position.

The Reverend William Bingham; "No road is worth a life".
"The Order does not want to see Ulster paralysed. I am not aware of any attempts or plans to paralyse Northern Ireland.

"We are not in the business of destroying our own country and bringing it to its knees."

Unionist strikes fears

If the Orange Order calls on unionists to strike or blockade the province, it would be a massive test of the Northern Ireland settlement and the power of the new assembly.

[ image: Riots: Violence across province]
Riots: Violence across province
Back in 1974, the Sunningdale power-sharing agreement collapsed mainly because of unionist strikes.

Wednesday night saw the biggest protest yet at the Garvaghy Road with the Orange Order saying 12,000 of its members turned out.

Protesters attempted to blockade a major road in Portadown while police in other parts of the province came under attack in loyalist areas.

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