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Ulster Democratic Party leader Gary McMichael:
"This is a healthy development"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
UDA 'won't start Drumcree violence'
UDA flag
UDA has not urged members to stay away from Drumcree
The Ulster Defence Association has said it has no intention of starting violence at this weekend's controversial Orange Drumcree parade in Northern Ireland.

The UDA, the largest loyalist paramilitary group in the province, said it and its associated Ulster Freedom Fighters, supported Orangemen in their right to march.

But in a statement, issued on Tuesday, the UDA leadership said it would not call on its members to stay away from the parade.

On Monday, the Orange Order parade was barred from passing down the Catholic Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh, for the fourth consecutive year.

The Protestant Order wants to use the route on its return journey from a service at Drumcree church.

Delegation

The UDA statement came as a formal review of the decision on the Drumcree parade got under way following a request from a delegation of unionist councillors from Craigavon in County Armagh.

The delegation, which included the Portadown Orangeman David Jones, met the Parades Commission in Belfast earlier on Tuesday.

The UDA said individual members would exercise "their right to show solidarity with their fellow loyalists at Drumcree if they so choose".

"The decision whether or not to attend Drumcree rests with our members as individuals," they added.

Gary McMichael, leader of the Ulster Democratic Party, which is associated with the UDA/UFF, said he believed their statement was "quite positive".

"There has been all this talk in recent days of paramilitaries getting involved.

"What they are saying is everyone has a right to associate themselves with the issue of Drumcree and show solidarity, but that they are not intending to cause any trouble," he said.

Archbishop

Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames urged paramilitaries to "in God's name keep out of this dispute and allow reason and discussion to find a way forward".

Earlier on Tuesday, the South African lawyer mediating in the Drumcree dispute called on loyalist paramilitaries to stay away from the area this year.

Mr Currin said he was "concerned at the likelihood that loyalist paramilitaries will once again come out in support" of the parade.

"If loyalist paramilitaries and activists want a resolution to Drumcree, they can best make a contribution by allowing the Orangemen to give expression to their culture and religion with dignity and in a peaceful manner," he said.

"In the interests of achieving a long-term solution, I therefore plead with the loyalist paramilitary leadership to instruct their members to stay away from Drumcree on 8 July."

Last year, province-wide protests in support of the Orangemen led to widespread disruption as roads were blocked and loyalist rioting marked several nights of violence.

The trouble included a gun salute by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters in a loyalist estate in Portadown.

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See also:

03 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
March mediator's call to paramilitaries
03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Police injured during rioting
02 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Ban on Drumcree parade route
02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Security fears at Drumcree
02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Appeal for Drumcree calm
01 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Protestants prepare to march
30 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
'Nothing new' in parade proposals
01 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Minor clashes over Orange parade
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