The area has been virtually cut off for days. There is no road out of the town that has not blocked off. In the smaller lanes trees have been felled, and on larger roads people are using vehicles, most of which have been hijacked. They block the main roads with human blockades. Mr Mallon said: "They have been very abusive to people - demanding identification, asking to see people's driving licences, turning them back. There has been verbal abuse and in some cases physical abuse.
"People can't get to work, they can't get to the shops, commercial life is at a standstill and there's no communication between people at all. I have never seen it as dangerous and as sinister. I've lived through all this last 25 years and I think this is much more dangerous even than the 1970s in terms of the intensity of the concentrated bitterness and the potential for long-term damage. It will leave a terrible residue of bitterness on all sides."
Meanwhile a leading figure in the Orange Order, who prefers to remain anonymous, admitted that the present Drumcree crisis was causing more damage to Northern Ireland than IRA bombs.
"For 26 years the IRA bombed us, and for 26 years the people were defiant and stood up to them. But today the country's being ruined: we're going to lose tourists; businesses are failing; it's bad for everybody. It is worse than all the damage the IRA has done.
"I think this is a terrible mess; it was a terrible bad move to do this. David Trimble and Ian Paisley were too cocky about getting the parade through last year: it got the Catholics' humps up. I don't know what's going to resolve it now, but they'll have to talk. The trouble is that our people are really up in arms. They believe they have the right to march, and they believe the police have overreacted against them, been very rough with them. Orangemen are generally peaceful, but it would take very little for things to get really bad.Reuse content