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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 July, 2004, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Drumcree march passes peacefully
Orangemen at Drumcree
Fewer Orangemen took part in this year's parade
The annual Orange Order parade at Drumcree in County Armagh has passed off peacefully, amid a scaled-down security presence.

Hundreds of Orangemen took part in the march on Sunday, which was again banned by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission from passing down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

The dispute centres on the desire by Protestant Orangemen to march along Garvaghy Road on their way back from a church service, against residents' wishes.

Following the service, Orangemen walked to the police barrier which prevents them from progressing further down the road, and made a verbal protest at the ban.

They then turned back up the hill towards Drumcree Church before dispersing.

A major security operation has accompanied the march in recent years, but it was scaled down this year.

Just an hour after the parade ended, the security operation was already being dismantled.

Orangemen march at Drumcree
No matter what people say, Portadown District is still on the road
David Burrows
Portadown Orange Lodge

According to BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson the number of Orangemen at the parade was smaller than in the past.

The barrier was smaller and there was significantly less barbed wire around the site for Sunday's parade than in previous years.

Speaking after the march, Chief Superintendent Jonathan McIvor said he was pleased it had passed off without incident and hoped it would provide an impetus for the peaceful resolution of the parades issue.

"It's been very orderly and well marshalled by the Orange Order. I think that is a product of the close working relationship there has been between police chiefs and community leaders over the last number of months," he said.

Officers of Portadown District strung their own tape barrier across the road at the foot of Drumcree Hill and into an adjoining field.

Ahead of police lines, their cordon carried a sign asking protesters not to cross.

Before the march, Portadown Orange Deputy District Master David Burrows told Orangemen: "No matter what people say, Portadown District is still on the road."

Representatives of County Lodge were conspicuous by their absence at the march.

Soldiers put a razor wire barrier near the church
Soldiers put up a razor wire barrier near the church
This move may be linked to recent tensions within the Orange Order over the Portadown District's contacts with the Parades Commission, in breach of Grand Lodge policy.

On Sunday, Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said something more needed to be done to resolve the Drumcree situation.

"We have been through the mediation process before, we have been through the process of indirect engagement - that has clearly not worked," he said.

"Let's try something that will bring new thinking to the situation, and that will bring about an end to this yearly farce."

The Portadown Orange Lodge attends the service at Drumcree Church each July, which commemorates the anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

Last year's march passed off peacefully, but over the years, there has been serious violence directed against the police and Army at Drumcree.

Orangemen last walked down the Garvaghy Road in 1997.

In subsequent years, their homeward route has been blocked by the security forces.

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




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mark Simpson
"Today's peaceful events bode well for the rest of the marching season"



SEE ALSO:
Drumcree violence 'in the past'
02 Jul 04  |  Northern Ireland


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