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Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Officers injured after march ban
More than 20 officers were injured in disturbances
More than 20 officers were injured in disturbances
Twenty-four police officers have been injured during clashes which followed a controversial Orange Order parade in Northern Ireland being barred from a mainly nationalist area.

There were angry confrontations after the annual parade at Drumcree was stopped from marching through the area in Portadown, County Armagh.

During the trouble, which lasted less than an hour, police fired three plastic bullets and at least two civilians were injured.

Officers fired three baton rounds
Officers fired three baton rounds

Police said three people were arrested for riotous behaviour after the security forces stopped a bus leaving the area.

Following a service at Drumcree Church of Ireland, the Portadown district lodge made the short walk to the security barrier stopping them from entering the Garvaghy Road.

More than 2,000 police officers and soldiers were in place for the security operation on Sunday - the fifth successive year the parade has been restricted.

A letter of protest was handed in to a senior police officer at the security barriers.

A short time later a small crowd of supporters then forced open the gates which were in place to stop the march going down the road.

They began throwing stones at the police.

Click here to see more images from the day's events

A police riot squad pushed the crowd back through the gates and the Army brought in a larger barrier to block the road.

Later police used water canon in an attempt to disperse around 150 protesters trying to pull down barbed wire fencing at the barricade.

A bid by Orangemen to have the Parades Commission ruling overturned failed on Thursday night.

They argued that following the march route - from Portadown to Drumcree Church and back - was a celebration of their heritage. But many Catholics regard it as provocative.

Fury at the block on Orangemen returning from their church service at Drumcree along that route has led to fierce clashes in the past.

During his sermon, Drumcree rector the Reverend John Pickering said Drumcree "unfortunately has become a symbol of division and conflict".


We were told there would be a dignified protest, we were prepared for violence and unfortunately that is what happened - mindless evil thugs attacked police officers

ACC Stephen White

Speaking after violence, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White said he was very angry and disappointed at what happened at the barrier.

"We were told there would be a dignified protest, we were prepared for violence and unfortunately that is what happened - mindless evil thugs attacked police officers."

He added: "All the indications up until this point was that the Order had asked for calm and the numbers were reduced on previous years.

"We're talking about 20 or 30 violent people who attacked police lines. Police tactics were prepared, there was a gradual response to violence."

He said a number of officers sustained facial and head injuries.

Army engineers set up a barrier - much less imposing than in previous years - across the bridge below Drumcree Church.

Razor wire was also strung across the fields beside the bridge to prevent any efforts to outflank the barrier.

Portadown District Master Harold Gracey said: "I will endeavour for as long as I live to ensure that Portadown District get the human rights that they are entitled to of walking along a public road."

In his speech to protesters and Orangemen, Deputy District Master David Burrows said: "How pathetic that they lack so much confidence in themselves that they can't spare us a few minutes of Christian tolerance while we walk home."

An injured officer is taken to hospital
An injured officer was taken to hospital

The event is part of the Protestant marching season which commemorates William of Orange's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II, and culminates in celebrations on 12 July.

In previous years when the Orange parade has been forced down the Garvaghy Road amid a massive security operation, it has triggered serious disturbances in republican and nationalist areas.

There are also tensions surrounding a parade at Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh on Sunday.

The Parades Commission has allowed a march through the village despite strong nationalist objections.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray reports from Portadown
"The security presence was much more low key than in previous years"
First Minister David Trimble
"It's not in anybody's interest... for this impasse to continue"
BBC NI's Brian Rowan:
"There have been injuries on both sides of the barrier"
Find out more about the Drumcree dispute in Northern Ireland

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07 Jul 02 | N Ireland
06 Jul 02 | N Ireland
01 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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