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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Drumcree security may be scaled down
Police hope serious disorder will not erupt
Police hope serious disorder will not erupt
The intense security surrounding Northern Ireland's most controversial loyal order parade should be scaled down, according to a leading police officer.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White, who is in charge of policing the annual Drumcree march, said the move may help ease tensions.

The Drumcree dispute centres on the Protestant Orange Order's desire to walk along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road, near Portadown in County Armagh - a route opposed by many nationalist residents.


Both sides, the Orangemen and nationalist residents on the Garvaghy Road, are well aware that violence only begets violence

Stephen White
PSNI

The Parades Commission has barred the Order from marching down the road for the last four years.

Mr White said: "My desire is to perform this operation with a more sophisticated touch than previous years if possible."

Determination

This year's parade will take place on Sunday 7 July.

The officer said he hoped serious disorder would not erupt this year.

"There seems to be no stomach or desire in the Portadown area for the type of violence we are seeing around Belfast," he said.


I warn anyone involved in criminal behaviour they are likely to be dealt with very robustly

Stephen White

"Both sides, the Orangemen and nationalist residents on the Garvaghy Road, are well aware that violence only begets violence."

The determination on the Drumcree parade is expected to be made by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission on Monday.

Mr White added: "My desire is to police the operation, whatever the Parades Commission determination, in such a way that it's proportionate to these views and the actual threat posed."

The officer will have up to 1,000 police officers and four Army battalions at his disposal.

"The water cannon and public order support groups will also be at my disposal as in previous years," he said.

"If we can police it with a less militaristic way that keeps the potential for violence to a minimum that will be a very positive contribution.

"But I warn anyone involved in criminal behaviour they are likely to be dealt with very robustly."

'Major fortifications'

The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition, which opposes the parade passing through the area, said proposals for a scaled-down security operation were not surprising.
PSNI ACC Stephen White
ACC Stephen White: "No stomach or desire for violence"

Spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith said there had been a major decrease in protesters at Drumcree over recent years.

"Along with that the protests themselves have been less violent so I can see the case for pulling back on the major fortifications," he said.

A spokesperson for the Orange Order said it hoped to complete the parade this year.

Last week, the Order was criticised by the Parades Commission for "failing to engage in proper dialogue".

In the commission's fourth annual report, Chairman Tony Holland said it was not surprising the Orange Order had failed to achieve all it wanted when it only got involved in "sporadic talks".

He appealed for people of influence to encourage the Orange Order to get more involved in sustained dialogue.

Mr Holland said there was no evidence to suggest there had been an appreciable change in relation to Drumcree.

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

Find out more about the Drumcree dispute in Northern Ireland

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See also:

25 May 02 | N Ireland
08 Jul 00 | N Ireland
27 May 01 | N Ireland
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