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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
RUC criticised on roadblock response
Protests were in support of an Orange march at Drumcree
Protests were in support of an Orange march at Drumcree
The Police Authority for Northern Ireland has criticised the police's response to the roadblocks set up by supporters of the Drumcree protest in July.

Loyalists were protesting over a ban on an Orange Order march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh.

Professor Herb Wallace:
Professor Herb Wallace: "They need to look at the way they handled the operation"
The authority expressed concern that, what it called, "a perceived lack of action" by the Royal Ulster Constabulary may have had a damaging effect on public confidence in the police.

Members of the Police Authority said they were disappointed with the scale of the police response to widespread disruption during the first part of July.

Over 1,500 roads were blocked after Orange Order leaders at Drumcree called people on to the streets to support their protest.

'Robust action taken'

On Thursday, the authority said they recognised the scale and the sporadic nature of the protests but said the community expected more should have been done to help drivers and to disperse protesters.

Professor Herb Wallace of the Police Authority said: "They need to look again at the way they handled the operation and need to learn lessons from it.

"They need to think again about the way they communicate with the public, during these difficult situations."

But the RUC Deputy Chief Constable, Colin Cramphorn, said, where appropriate, robust action had been taken.

He said a total of 224 arrests had been made for public order offences with further charges to follow from the examination of video footage.

He said where women and children were involved and the protest was a limited duration, it was entirely appropriate to take a sensitive approach.

Many Garvaghy Road residents in Portadown oppose Orange parades through the area.

But Orangemen say marching down the Garvaghy Road is a long tradition.

The Portadown lodge has been banned since 1998 from returning to their hall via the Garvaghy Road.

The Orange Order's Drumcree parade is traditionally held on the Sunday before the 12 July anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, when an army led by the Protestant King William of Orange defeated Catholic forces.

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See also:

08 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Anger over Orange protest call
03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Police injured during rioting
03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Commission ban on Drumcree parade
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