Announcing its decision to re-route the march away from the nationalist Garvaghy Road, the Parades Commission said that allowing the march to follow its usual path would have a very serious impact on community relations throughout Northern Ireland. The news was instantly welcomed by nationalists but denounced by Unionists.
The Government and the RUC can be expected to face rising pressure to reverse the decision in the days leading up to the parade. Orange Order officials have already spoken of organising protests not only at Drumcree itself but all over Northern Ireland.
The by-now traditional confrontation has given rise to widespread disorder in each of the last three years, often culminating in riots in both loyalist and republican districts. Although the ban carries the force of law, the Orange Order does not recognise the commission. A spokesman yesterday described the decision as "outrageous".
The commission has ordered the marchers to return from their service at Drumcree parish church by the same route they take to get there. This means staying away from Garvaghy Road, an option the Order regards as unacceptable.
Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said recently: "The Parades Commission is in a difficult position. It always is. It's a no- win situation. It's a conflict of rights."
More than a thousand extra troops have been drafted into Northern Ireland in preparation for marching season disputes.
Lord Alderdice was yesterday appointed initial Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, just hours after his resignation as leader of the centrist Alliance party following its poor showing in last week's elections. Lord Alderdice is likely to be appointed permanently at the first meeting of the body tommorrow.
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