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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Minor trouble flares as parade ends
Police said the trouble was minor compared to last year
Police said the trouble was minor compared to last year
A number of petrol bombs have been thrown by nationalist protesters and several baton rounds fired following a controversial junior Orange Lodge march in County Armagh.

The trouble, which was described by police as "relatively minor", flared as marchers were returning home from the Parkmount Junior Orange Lodge parade in Portadown on Saturday.

A large security operation was mounted at the bottom end of the Garvaghy Road in the town ahead of the march.

A small army of soldiers and several police tactical support groups surrounded about 40 junior orange men and a loyalist flute band who took part in the parade.


We had a total of eight petrol bombs thrown at officers, two baton rounds were fired as a result, and a man has been arrested

Stephen White Assistant chief constable

The lodge marched from Shillington's Bridge to the lower end of the Garvaghy Road where screens were erected by the army.

A line of landrovers and heavy military vehicles separated the nationalist residents from the marchers.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White said it was a text book operation that passed off with relatively minor trouble compared to last year's march.

"Clearly there were those intent on some violence today but the main thing was that many responsible members of the community acted in a very responsible way," he said.

"What violence was directed against us was reasonably minimalist compared to last year.

Dispersed

"We had a total of eight petrol bombs thrown at officers, two baton rounds were fired as a result, and a man has been arrested."

As soon as the lodge and band had dispersed, the security operation was removed from the area by the army and police.

Serious riots followed last year's parade.

More than 60 police officers were injured in the trouble which broke out after the parade passed along the lower end of the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road last year.

The Parades Commission has given permission for the parade to go ahead, despite last year's violence.

The rioting lasted two hours with up to 200 people involved.

At the height of the trouble, the police were attacked with petrol bombs, acid bombs, bricks and bottles by nationalists.

The police said groups of nationalist men and youths confronted officers on public order duty as they were withdrawing from the security operation mounted at the parade.

However, republicans criticised the police for firing plastic bullets and said the fighting was provoked by loyalists breaking parade restrictions and police "heavy-handedness" during the trouble the followed.

a They said the annual parade had a history of escalating tensions in the area.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Mervyn Jess reports:
"Assistant chief constable Stephen White said it was a text book operation that passed off with relatively minor trouble"
See also:

08 Jul 00 | N Ireland
27 May 01 | N Ireland
23 May 00 | N Ireland
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