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Saturday, July 11, 1998 Published at 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK

Countdown to a crisis

The big divide: Orangemen face the troops

As the mounting tension at Drumcree threatens to upset the Good Friday Agreement, BBC News online examines the background to the crisis.

The independent Parades Commission originally banned the Orange Order march from the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road area of the town.

But a stalemate developed when security forces barred Orange Order protesters from the disputed stretch of road.

The loyalist Orangemen remain determined to walk their traditional route and set up camp on site.

Here are some of the key events:

[ image: End of the line: The barricade across the Garvaghy Road]
End of the line: The barricade across the Garvaghy Road
Saturday 4 July: The Army erects barbed wire, steel and concrete barriers to prevent the Orangemen reaching the Garvaghy Road from Drumcree church.

First Minister, David Trimble, and Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon, issue a joint appeal for calm. Meanwhile Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, insists that the march will not pass down the Garvaghy Road.

Sunday 5 July: The Orange Order march sets out from the Orange Hall in Carlton, Portadown. Orangemen from Portadown District are joined by others from lodges around the province.

Marchers arrive at Drumcree parish church for a service.

Members of the Portadown District Lodge march down the road from the church to the massive security barricade. A stand-off ensues.

[ image: Flying the flag for the Orangemen]
Flying the flag for the Orangemen
More Orangemen and loyalists arrive to swell the numbers at Drumcree church to about 6,000. Tents are pitched in the surrounding fields and protesters settle in for the long haul. Meanwhile, violence flares in a number of loyalist areas across the province.

Monday 6 July: More tents are erected around Drumcree church and provisions are brought in as Orangemen dig in.

Parades Commission announces that the controversial Ballynafeigh District parade can go ahead down the flashpoint Ormeau Road in Belfast.

Tuesday 7 July: Tensions mount in Portadown as loyalist protesters block roads leading to and from the nationalist enclave around the Garvaghy Road.

Downing Street confirms that Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet Orange Order leaders to try to resolve the impasse.

Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon is heckled by residents as he leaves a meeting with members of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition.

A crowd of around 80 shout "no sell out" and "go back to Trimble".

Wednesday 8 July: Orangemen continue to converge on Drumcree against a backdrop of continuing violence across the province.

During the night, plastic bullets are fired by police as protesters break through the barbed wire defences at Drumcree.

Thursday 9 July: A four-man Orange Order delegation meets Tony Blair at Downing Street, but leaves with little sign of progress.

Meanwhile, leading Orangeman David McNarry claims the Order "could paralyse the province in a matter of hours".

Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness visits the Garvaghy Road to back the residents.

After meeting Orange Order leader Robert Saulters in Belfast, First Minister David Trimble warns of the "awesome prospect" facing Northern Ireland if the Drumcree stand-off is not resolved by the weekend.

Some of the estimated 20,000 protesters break through the barbed wire barricades at Drumcree and a confrontation begins which lasts into the early hours.

Police fire plastic bullets to force back the crowd, and three RUC men are injured by nail bombs thrown across the barricades.

Other officers suffer minor injuries from missiles and ball bearings fired from catapults.

Friday 10 July: Troops move in to strengthen the barricades and lay more barbed wire across the fields around Drumcree.

A crowd of around 4,000 gather at Drumcree for another night of violence in which one man is critically injured by a plastic bullet.

A gunman fires at security forces, although no one is injured.

The government invites Orangemen and the Garvaghy Road Residents Association to take part in indirect talks to solve the crisis.

Saturday 11 July: Preliminary talks to settle the place and form of the talks take place.

They eventually start soon after lunchtime between delegations from each side.

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