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Boom in sales of loyalist regalia

Street fashion: Orange regalia flies out of the shops, as marchers and residents fail to come to terms
So many new members have joined the Orange Order since last year's Drumcree marching confrontation that suppliers of sashes and other loyalist regalia have been overwhelmed, writes David McKittrick.

One shop in Lurgan, Co Armagh, which is close to Drumcree, reports that its sales of Orange sashes have almost doubled in the past 12 months. It has sold up to a thousand in the past year.

According to Victor Stewart, of Enterprises Uniform Regalia: "We've been in business for 12 years and this has been our best ever year. We will be working full tilt right up to the 12th of July. The new members coming in are mainly young, though there are people of all ages joining. It seems to be the same story all over - other suppliers have been on to us looking for material but we haven't an inch to spare."

He also supplies bowler hats, badges and belts. Many of the new Orangemen are Co Armagh locals but, more surprisingly, Mr Stewart reports a wave of recruits from England. His sales confirm reports that the Drumcree stand-off created interest in Orangeism in England, for orders have been coming in, he says, from London, Liverpool, Bristol, Essex and Tyne & Wear.

The authorities, who are engaged in intensive last-minute efforts to avoid a repetition of last summer's disturbances, are apprehensive that many of the new local recruits are young men who may turn out to be militants in the event of street confrontations.

It is known that many sections of the Order have drawn up plans for protests aimed at bringing normal life in their districts to a standstill next month if the 6 July Drumcree march is prevented from passing through the Catholic Garvaghy Road district of Portadown in Co Armagh.

Mr Stewart's business is not confined to Protestant regalia: he also supplies green sashes to the Order's much smaller Catholic counterpart, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.