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The BBC's Valerie Jones in Belfast
"By early evening the streets of Belfast were largely deserted"
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Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
"The way forward out of this situation and is by sustained dialogue"
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Harold Gracey speaks with the BBC's Peter Hunt
"I won't condemn violence - Gerry Adams never condemns violence does he?"
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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Orange leader 'won't condemn violence'
Police have called in army back-up in Belfast
Police have called in army back-up in Belfast
An Orange Order leader has refused to condemn the violence across Northern Ireland during a week of protests over the Drumcree dispute.

Portadown Orange Lodge district master Harold Gracey was speaking as the Parades Commission said it would review its ban on a march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road on Sunday.

If things get out of hand, it's not my fault

Harold Gracey
The review follows a fresh proposal from Portadown lodge in which it held out the possibility of talks mediated by South African lawyer Brian Currin if the Parades Commission lifted restrictions on the march.

Residents' spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith dismissed the offer as containing "nothing new" before he met the Parades Commission.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Gracey said he had no regrets over calling for "hundreds and thousands" to come on to the streets of Northern Ireland to protest over the ban on the parade along the Garvaghy Road.

Harold Gracey: Warned Prime Minister
He blamed the nightly violence since his call last Sunday on the Parades Commission.

"I don't regret anything I said," he said.

"I am not going to condemn violence because Gerry Adams never condemns violence.

"If things get out of hand, it's not my fault. I warned the prime minister what could happen if things were taken out of my hands," he said.

Mr Gracey said he would not meet Mr MacCionnaith, who has a conviction for a bomb attack on Portadown's British Legion hall.

He also refused to condemn the attendance at Drumcree of former Ulster Freedom Fighters commander Johnny Adair, who has a conviction for directing terrorism.

Earlier on Friday, the Parades Commission confirmed it was reviewing its decision "in light of fresh evidence".

Legal challenge

The body met First Minister David Trimble's chief of staff on Friday and a lawyer for Portadown Orangemen.

The two men were seeking a new ruling on Sunday's proposed parade in light of the latest proposal.

After the meeting, solicitor Richard Monteith said their meeting was "a proper legal challenge" and not a "stunt".

Under the proposal, only the Portadown Orangemen would march along the Garvaghy Road on Sunday.

The Portadown Orangemen would also continue premediation talks with a view to "full mediation".

They would also appoint a representative to a proposed Civic Forum which would involve Garvaghy Road residents.

'Order must choose'

Secretary of State Peter Mandelson said the Orange Order must engage in dialogue if they were to march on the Garvaghy Road.

Peter Mandelson: Oraqngemen must choose between "sustained dialogue or violence"
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Mr Mandelson said recent violence had done nothing to further the cause of the Portadown Lodge.

"Now we have seen a constructive and welcome move from the local Orange Order in Portadown saying that they will engage with the Parades Commission and with local residents, something which hitherto they have absolutely refused to do," he said.

"One thing I'm sure about, is that for a deferred march to take place, the test will be first of all whether there is continuing violence this weekend surrounding the Orange Order protest at Drumcree, and secondly whether the local Orange Order are prepared to engage in sustained dialogue over time and I think that's what the Parades Commission will be looking to."

Local Sinn Fein assembly member Dr Dara O'Hagan said the proposals contained "nothing new" as a march was being sought before any talks.

"In essence we're not hearing anything different than we've heard over the past two years," said the Upper Bann assembly member before a meeting with the Parades Commission.

The proposal emerged following a fifth night of disturbances in Portadown, Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland - but the unrest was not on the same scale as on previous nights.

On Friday morning the army installed further security measures in the fields surrounding Drumcree Church just outside Portadown.

However, Friday's protest at Drumcree has been cancelled to allow the funeral of motorcycle racing hero Joey Dunlop to go ahead in Ballymoney, County Antrim.

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See also:

07 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Parades body to review ruling
07 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Fifth night of Drumcree protests
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Ban on flashpoint Orange march
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Orange protests 'wrecking' tourism
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree protests 'out of control'
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