Army drafts in 2,000 troops to Ulster to cope with Orange marching season

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The Independent Online

Two thousand British troops are being drafted into Northern Ireland to cope with the possibility of loyalist disturbances during next month's peak of the Orange marching season.

Two thousand British troops are being drafted into Northern Ireland to cope with the possibility of loyalist disturbances during next month's peak of the Orange marching season.

The troops are from five battalions under the command of the Army General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland which had been moved back to Britain because of the improved security situation.

An Army spokesman said the return of the soldiers was part of "prudent contingency plans" for the marching season.

Although the atmosphere is not as tense as it has been in many previous years, there have already been various local disturbances, accompanied by rumours that paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Association may be gearing up for trouble. The first test will come on Sunday, when an Orange Order parade has been banned by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission from going from Drumcree along the Catholic Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Co Armagh.

A further Orange attempt to march along the road, which is the most hotly-contested area in Northern Ireland, is to be made the following Sunday. This too is likely to be banned.

The commission said the order's attempt to hold two controversial parades instead of one "risks being interpreted as a deliberate attempt to raise tension", adding that Sunday's proposed parade could have led to public disorder.

The authorities are expected, as in previous years, to erect obstacles at Drumcree to prevent any loyalist attempts to reach the Garvaghy Road. These include the turning of a stream into a moat, as well as the use of concrete obstructions and barbed wire.

Although there was hardly any disruption last year, some previous years led to widespread disturbances and some deaths, and the authorities are taking no chances.

Meanwhile, the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party has raised the 30 signatures necessary to stage a full-scale debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on a motion seeking the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the executive.

The DUP motion calls on assembly members to expel Sinn Fein for 12 months, asserting that the party is inextricably linked with the IRA. The motion has no chance of success, since it would need nationalist support to be passed.

Peter Robinson, the DUP's deputy leader, declared: "This is a day of reckoning for every Unionist in the Assembly. If they don't vote for this motion their electorate is going to know about it and it's going to be in front of them every minute, every hour and every day until they face that electorate again."

The move was dismissed by nationalists and other Unionists as "stunt politics." The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said: "It would seem simply an indication that Unionism is lurching to the right, that those who are against change have a toehold. I don't think it will last. All they can do, whatever they do, is delay change, they cannot stop it because people like me won't give up."

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