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Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK

Troops leave as Orangemen quit Drumcree protest

Half the troops sent during the Drumcree stand-off are heading home

Hundreds of soldiers drafted to Northern Ireland have returned to the mainland as the number of Orange Order protesters in Drumcree continues to fall.

Twelve days after the confrontation started, security was being scaled down, with 400 members of the King's Own Regiment - half the deployment of extra soldiers drafted in to back up police - returning to base.

[ image: The move may indicate the worst of the stand-off is over]
The move may indicate the worst of the stand-off is over
Their departure is being taken as an indication that the authorities believe the worst of the Drumcree crisis is over.

The move follows one of the quietest nights around the barricades barring protesters from marching through the nationalist area of Garvaghy Road in Portadown, a route that has been banned by the Parades Commission.

The Orange Order camp is slowly being deserted and the number of protesters left at Drumcree is believed to be less than 200.

Splits within the Orange Order following the killing of three young brothers have contributed to the falling off of support.

[ image: Numbers at the Orange camp are now low]
Numbers at the Orange camp are now low
Some members say the protesters should withdraw while others insist the order has no connection with the deaths.

Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn - aged 11, nine and seven - died when their home in Ballymoney, County Antrim, was firebombed on Saturday night.

Police investigating the murders said they had arrested a "small number" of people on Thursday.

One other man was still being held following the sectarian attack.

Another man was released without charge on Wednesday.

Security forces have continued searching the fields around the church at Drumcree.

On Wednesday, officers recovered home-made weapons including a machine gun, nail bombs, a crossbow and bolts.

Petrol bomb components and five gallons of fuel were also found. The RUC made 20 arrests.

[ image: Illegal fireworks and masks were displayed after the search]
Illegal fireworks and masks were displayed after the search
The protesters suffered a further drawback when the Church of Ireland - one of the main Protestant churches in the province - banned them from its property at Drumcree.

The Church has blocked access to two nearby fields that protesters had been using as car parks.

The majority of the order's chaplains believe the protesters should go home.

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