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The BBC's Steve Kingstone reports
"The final act in a carefully choreographed ritual"
 real 56k

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

Breandan MacCionnaith, resident of Garvaghy Road
"Both ourselves and the Orange Order need to be open minded"
 real 56k

Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Order protests over Drumcree ban
The Orange parade was stopped at a security barrier
The Orange parade was stopped at a security barrier
Protestant Orangemen have made a verbal protest over a ban on the controversial Drumcree parade from passing through a nationalist area in County Armagh.

Members walked to a huge security barrier after attending a church service and protested over the ban by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission.

The Orange 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 the service at Drumcree Parish Church, but the march is opposed by nationalist residents.

Nigel Dawson, secretary of the Portadown lodge, flanked by district master Harold Gracey, spoke to a senior police officer at the security installation, which prevented the march from going towards the Garvaghy Road.

Click here for parade route

Afterwards, Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters said they had "moved heaven and earth to find a just and peaceful solution".

He said: "In dismissing our constructive willingness to join a civic forum and to enter into dialogue with the residents, the Parades Commission has once again shown not only innate prejudice against our community, it has also spurned a chance to build a platform for communal peace and reconciliation."

After the verbal protest, the Orangemen walked back up the hill and began dispersing.

The events unfolded amid a heavy security presence with both sides of the community urged to remain calm.

Earlier, the Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, appealed for any protest to be "dignified and lawful".

A verbal protest was made by the Orangemen at the barrier
A verbal protest was made by the Orangemen at the barrier

In a letter to Orangemen, read out during their church service, the archbishop also said he was "disappointed and frustrated" that a settlement had not been possible.

He added: "I have to remind you again that the Church of Ireland cannot accept, support or condone in any words or actions which are sectarian or injurious to members of another community."

More than 2,000 Orangemen left the Orange Hall at Carleton Street on Sunday morning and moved countryward along the Corcrain Road, to the hill at Drumcree.

The atmosphere throughout the day has been calm.

Before the parade left, a spokesman for the Portadown lodge told those gathered that members should walk "with pride and in peace as we have done for so many years".

Assembly member Paul Berry of the Democratic Unionist Party appealed for a peaceful day out.

"The Orange Order has always said that if people come in peace they are welcome. There should be no trouble, because trouble does nothing to help the cause of unionism and loyalism."

Earlier on Sunday, Upper Bann assembly member Brid Rodgers, of the nationalist SDLP, said she hoped the parade would pass off peacefully.

Brid Rodgers:
Brid Rodgers: "Great anxiety and tension"

Speaking as the parade got under way, she said: "There is great anxiety, fear and tension right across the north because of the annual stoking up of sectarian hatred that accompanies the failure to resolve the Drumcree situation."

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

A huge steel and concrete barrier has been 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 have been put in place, fields have been dug up adjacent to the barrier, and a water-filled ditch has been widened.


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.

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.

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.

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See also:

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