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Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK


So far, so good in Drumcree

Orange Order members look across the razor wire

By BBC News Online's Neil Bennett in Portadown

On this Sunday in July, Drumcree looked like the setting for a medieval battlefield.

Orangemen were ranged on one side of the valley in front of the parish church, with the police and Army facing them on the other 200 yards away. In between, a moat and a no-man's-land covered with barbed wire.

But during the daylight hours at least there was no battle, no re-run of the disorder which has scarred the Orange Drumcree parade for the past four years.

Families spent the day at Drumcree, parking their cars in the fields around the church and listening to speeches from Orange Order bigwigs.

By the time the rain came in the early evening, most had drifted away. A traditional British end to a summer day out.

A town of two halves

The two halves of Portadown had very different Sundays. On the loyalist Corcrain estate, the union flags and the red, white and blue bunting were out. So were hundreds of people, applauding the Orange marchers .

The Portadown Accordion Band played Onward Christian Soldiers as several thousand members of the Orange Lodge marched to their service at the church on the hill.

On the other side of town, in the mainly nationalist Garvachy Road, the Irish tricolour flew from every lamppost.

Hardly a soul was out of doors, it was unnaturally quiet and there was very little interest in what the Orangemen were up to - provided, that is, they did not march back into the centre of Portadown along their street.

They did not. The police and troops were there to make sure that they did not.

Cheers for lone protester

Only one man made a determined effort to breach the barbed wire. The lone protester waded through the moat, picked his way over the barbed wire and stuck an Ulster flag on top of the last fence separating protesters from police.

Cheers rang out among the loyalists - perhaps they felt that honour had been satisfied.

Drumcree 2000 may take place in a different atmosphere all together. But that depends entirely on progress on a wider front.

In the weeks and months ahead, the politicians of Northern Ireland will decide if that is possible.

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