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Rev. John Pickering, Drumcree parish church
"I am very glad to say it is very quiet in Drumcree this morning"
 real 56k

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
looks at the parade route and what lies behind the annual flashpoint in Portadown
 real 56k

Jonathon Moore, Irish politics analyst
explains the importance of the parade to the Orangemen
 real 56k

Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Security forces braced for Drumcree
Soldiers keep watch on the barricaded Drumcree Bridge
Soldiers keep watch on the barricaded Drumcree Bridge
Security is tight for Sunday's controversial Orange Order parade at Drumcree in County Armagh, amid calls for both sides of the community to remain calm.

The Protestant parade has been barred from marching down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road near Portadown for the fourth consecutive year.

The Order wants to use the route on its return journey from a service at Drumcree Parish Church, but the march is opposed by nationalist residents.

On Thursday, the Northern Ireland Parades Commission upheld its decision to impose a ban on the parade.

Bridge

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.

At one stage on Saturday night, about 24 cars parked in the fields facing the fortifications and a small crowd gathered on the hill.

On Sunday, Portadown Orangemen will assembly close to the town centre. They will leave the Orange Hall at Carleton Street and travel countryward along the Corcrain Road, to the hill at Drumcree.

After their church service they will form ranks and proceed down the hill.

The parade comes a day after a huge security operation swung into action, and the head of the RUC, clergy, politicians, community leaders and the Orange Order called for everyone to show calm and restraint.

A huge steel and concrete barrier was erected across the road at the bridge, at the bottom of Drumcree Hill, to stop the parade going towards the Garvaghy Road.

Barbed wire and razor wire were put in place, fields were dug up adjacent to the barrier, and a water-filled ditch was widened.

A convoy of more than 20 trucks was attacked by nationalist stone-throwers. However, no-one was injured.

Orangemen insist they should be allowed to march along the Garvaghy Road to return to their hall in Portadown after their annual Battle of the Somme commemoration service at Drumcree Parish Church.

Click here for parade route

But nationalist residents oppose the marches and they have been barred from the road since 1998.

Portadown Orangemen have maintained a continuous protest on the hill at Drumcree since then.

The march has been accompanied by disturbances every year since 1995, and has often led to violence in the rest of Northern Ireland.

Last year, members of the paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer Force staged a gun salute in a loyalist estate in Portadown. It was attended by the convicted Ulster Freedom Fighters leader Johnny Adair.

Last Thursday night, members of the Ulster Defence Association and their supporters staged a demonstration at Drumcree.

It came just days after the leadership of the UDA/UFF - the largest paramilitary group in the province - said it had no intention of becoming involved in violence at Drumcree.

However, the paramilitary group did not order individuals to stay away from the protest.


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See also:

07 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Barriers go up around Drumcree
06 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Appeal for calm over Drumcree
07 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid plays down NI talks hopes
03 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA 'won't start Drumcree violence'
03 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
March mediator's call to paramilitaries
07 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland's marching season
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