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Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Eyewitness: 'Pride and dignity' at Drumcree
A soldier stands in front of nationalist housing as the Drumcree parade passes
A soldier stands in front of nationalist housing as the Drumcree parade passes
BBC News Online's Dominic Casciani reports from Drumcree where the seventh year of the dispute passed without violence.

Just for once, the expectation of violence was in another part of the United Kingdom.

After a night of severe rioting in Bradford, nobody needed to see anymore at Drumcree. And they didn't get any.

We will walk with dignity and pride as we have done for so many years

Orange Order address before march
The march passed peacefully as Orangemen sought to send a strong signal to their supporters and the outside world that their cause would be pursued "with pride and in dignity".

In the hours running up to the annual service commemorating those who fell at the Somme, soldiers set about creating barricades and barriers that made the fields around the church resemble a battlefield.

In less than a day they isolated the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road from the rest of Portadown as per the Parades Commission ruling.

The Portadown Orange men would be able to march past the mainly nationalist area - but not through it.

The only presence on Drumcree Hill was a handful of loyalists prepared to brave the drizzle in a tent.

It may have been a horrible night, but they did their best to keep the RUC and Paratroopers awake with a stereo blaring out the national anthem until the early hours.

Morning assembly

Approximately 2,000 Orangemen were expected for the march - but at 8.30am the only person who had turned up at the Carleton St Orange Hall was elderly local resident Mrs McLaughlin.

They've got their usual fortifications. What have we got other than umbrellas?

Portadown Orangeman
Wearing her Sunday best, a bright red coat and hat, she asked the assembled reporters where the Orangemen had got to.

"Ach, we would have been better off staying in bed," she sighed.

But they did turn up, and in some numbers. One of the first on the scene was a man wearing a t-shirt calling for the release of Johnny Adair, the convicted loyalist paramilitary leader.

"Orange heaven, Drumcree Seven" the t-shirt proclaimed, referring to the number of years the dispute has been going.

While the mood was not upbeat, it was certainly calm.

The Portadown Lodge raises its Drumcree protest bannerette
Raising the standard at the Orange Hall
One supporter said: "The Orange Order is very, very proud and I want to see it able to uphold the British standards of justice, freedom and religious tolerance.

"That's why we need a peaceful protest to protect our culture and heritage."

Another local Orangeman was more circumspect.

"The scale of the security presence creates the tense atmosphere," he said.

"They've got their usual fortifications. What have we got other than umbrellas?"

Paul Berry, the 25-year-old DUP assemblyman, became the focus of media attention as he tried to set the tone for the day.

"The Orange Order has always said that if people want to come, they should do so in peace."

So why hasn't the local lodge expressly told paramilitaries to stay away?

"There should be no trouble here. People should come and support the institution and nobody else."

"Pride and dignity"

As the time of the march approached, the public address system told the assembled members to "march with pride and dignity as we have done for so many years."

A man and his children raise a loyalist flag on Drumcree Hill
Defiance on the hill: But calm atmosphere
Flanked by two sword bearers, Portadown District Lodge's standard-bearer raised the Drumcree protest bannerette, the Star of David Accordion Band struck up and the parade moved forward to cheers from the scattering of onlookers.

The security forces kept a low profile until the parade reached St John's Catholic Church.

In previous years the area has seen the trading of sectarian insults.

On one side of the road stood Orange supporters.

On the other, stood dozens of police officers and soldiers behind concrete bollards and razor wire. The front of the church was shielded by 25ft high screening.

Marchers pass St John's Church surrounded by razor wire
Division: Marchers pass St John's Church
There was nothing to compare this time around. The parade went past to the single beat of a drum.

On only one occasion did any shouting break out. It was unclear who started it, short on bad language and over in less than a minute.

Irish-American observers inside the church grounds described it as the quietest march they had seen.

Other residents said that they were satisfied that the whole business had passed by quickly and hoped for more of the same in years to come.

Up on the hill

While the focus of the world remains the standoff, the focus of the parade itself remains the church service.

They can keep their walking if they want - but they're walking like a beaten people

Nationalist resident
Those who could not fit inside the church assembled strolled down to inspect the barricades.

Many of the men met their wives and children, indicating that they clearly believed the day would pass without incident.

The field by the barricades, rough-ploughed by the army to create yet another obstacle, became an impromptu hopscotch game for the younger children.

Other children dashed around with loyal flags, oblivious to the army helicopter hovering a mile away or the paratroopers watching through binoculars.

Others sat in cars with their parents, sipping tea and listening to the coverage of the event on the radio.

There was none of the carnival atmosphere of a traditional country Twelfth of July get-together. But there was also none of the tension of previous Drumcrees.

They simply looked on at the barricades and the paratroopers beyond.

And so, the church service over, the colour party and officers of the Portadown lodge marched to the barricades for the fourth successive year.

It then became clear that this protest was not to be like previous years.

Grand master plea

Robert Saulters, Grand Master of the Orange Order appeared on the platform, the first time that he had done so at Drumcree.

Last year, Mr Saulters warned that institution that it was in danger of losing the support of its community because of the Drumcree-related protests across Northern Ireland.

A bowler-hatted Orangeman at Drumcree
Here they stand: Observing the barricades
His presence at the scene indicated that this year he and Portadown district wanted things to be different and would not be expecting a long-standing protest by the barriers.

His language was not that of threats of defiance but of making clear that the Orange Order wanted "interest on its deposits of goodwill".

"Disperse with pride the dignity," he told the crowd. "Guard your reputation as it is the most precious jewel we possess."

There was a virtually insignificant outbreak of booing when six soldiers appeared on the top of the barricade with riot shields.

One or two stones bounced off the barricade and then nothing more.

The Orange Order walked away content that its stand had been dignified. A small minority complained that the protest should go on through the night, as with other years.

But one nationalist resident predicted that there was still a long way to go before the loyal institutions would be walking down the Garvaghy Road.

"They can keep their walking if they want - but they're walking like a beaten people," he said as he watched the parade earlier in the day.

Wouldn't it be better for both communities if they could stop looking for winners and losers?

"Probably," he said. "But there's too much water under the bridge now on both sides.

"It's not going to happen that way for many years to come."

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