Paisley waves baton for Orange parades

Ulster on the edge: Ministers struggle to salvage the peace process amid party acrimony
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The Independent Online
Protestant families are being intimidated into leaving their homes and Unionist buildingswithout proper police protection, the Reverend Ian Paisley claimed yesterday.

The Democratic Unionist Party leader also called on the new Peace Forum to look into the issue of Orange parades in the run-up to the "next great crisis point" of marches to be held on 12 August.

At a hastily convened press conference Dr Paisley bitterly attacked the SDLP and its leader John Hume for "resigning" from the Forum and running away from talks, saying this allowed Sinn Fein and the IRA to orchestrate Nationalist protests.

"We have tabled a motion for Friday19 July, calling for the establishment of a special committee to examine the con- tentious issue of public order at parades," he said.

Such a committee, he said, should report before the Apprentice Boys' marches occurred next month, and review the province's public order laws which posed a threat to the traditional Orange parades.

Dr Paisley said he would be meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew this morning and demanding that the SDLP rejoin the Forum. "Otherwise they will be scuppering the talks," he said.

As Nationalist protests continued, Dr Paisley highlighted attacks on Orange Halls and Protestant homes and monuments. In one case in Co Tyrone, he said, a Protestant had telephoned him to say his house was surrounded by Nationalist protesters and that the police had told him they could not attend - and simply advised him to leave his home.

He said Protestants were even more at risk after the funeral of Catholic Dermot McShane who was killed during rioting at the weekend. Mr McShane, a former member of the INLA, was crushed by an army vehicle during rioting early on Saturday morning. He was buried in the city's cemetery yesterday. His funeral in Londonderry, which was attended by 1,000 people including John Hume and senior Sinn Fein representative Martin McGuinness, passed off peacefully.

The aftermath of the upsurge of violence in the province has come as a bitter blow to members of the community who had grown hopeful during the ceasefire.

Catholic priest Fr Con McLaughlin said at the Long Tower Catholic Church in the city he had never seen the community so depressed - "almost to the point of despair". He appealed for calm on all sides. Protestant homes have been attacked in Newtownbutler, Co Tyrone, and in Newry and Newcastle in Co Down, where one family had to flee their home via the beach.

The attacks mirror last week's events when many Catholics, including 40 in north Belfast, were intimidated out of their houses by Loyalist mobs.

A police source said: "We have now seen Protestant homes and businesses targeted in the same way as Catholics were last week."

The province was relatively quiet yesterday, compared to the chaotic week following the Drumcree siege, but in Belfast the morning saw 50 petrol-bombs hurled at the New Barnsley police station by Nationalists, while in Downpatrick youths threw 60 petrol-bombs in bitter clashes with the security forces.

A taxi was set alight in Cookstown and in Armagh three BP tanker lorries were set ablaze.

Unusually, there was also Nationalist rioting in Enniskillen, where the day before a 1,200lb bomb had ripped apart the Killyhevlin Hotel.

Police said it was still not clear who planted the device following denials from Republican Sinn Fein and the IRA.

David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, who is close to Loyalist para-military thinking, said he was still "gloomy" about the future of the peace process, but said that the IRA's denial, though he did not necessarily believe it, was probably enough to keep Unionist para-militaries to their self-imposed ceasefire.