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Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK

UK Politics

Mowlam: Orange 'front' to Drumcree violence

Mowlam: time to get behind the Good Friday Agreement

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has strongly condemned the violence surrounding the ongoing protest by Protestant Orangeman at Drumcree, saying the Orangemen are providing a "front" for violence.

Ms Mowlam told the Commons, in the first Northern Ireland question session since the sectarian murder of the three young Quinn boys, that:

"Violence from whatever source it comes is roundly condemned in this House. Whether it is at Drumcree, and I fully acknowledge that many in the Orange Order at Drumcree do not want to see violence, but they are providing a front for others that are keen not just to cause violence but to destroy the Good Friday Agreement."


Tony Blair also joined in the condemnation of the murders.

During Prime Minister's Questions, he said that the death of the three young boys was an "appalling and evil tragedy".

[ image: Blair: need for dialogue]
Blair: need for dialogue
Mr Blair added: "I think that the RUC, in showing that they are prepared to stand for the rule of law in respect of intimidation from any quarter, did a great service both to themselves and to the peace process in Northern Ireland."

Mr Blair said that "with a bit of goodwill and dialogue we can find a way round" the problems posed by the marching season.

The prime minister then praised the recent behaviour of the Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble who, he said, had, with his nationalist SDLP deputy Seamus Mallon, "shown what the future of Northern Ireland could be if people wanted it".

Right to life

During Northern Ireland questions the Labour MP, Dennis Canavan, referring again to the stand-off at Drumcree, asked Ms Mowlam if she would agree with him that any child's right to life was far more precious than any adult's right to march:

"Will she therefore appeal to all members of the Orange Order to listen to the words of the Reverend William Bingham, the Orange order Chaplain for Armagh, who said 'a walk down the Gavaghy Road would be a very hollow victory because it would be in the shadow of the coffins of three little boys'."

'Look to the future'

The Secretary of State replied: "What we have to do is look to the future, because whether it is this year, next year or the year after, unless we deal with the competing rights and the underlying sectarianism we may well face an equally difficult situation next year.

"Whether it is the right to march, or the right to live to free from fear and intimidation, or the very basic right to life, the only way we can move forward is if people talk.

"It is by finding a way together that we are going to get through the very difficult situation that exists now."

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