Warning of violence at Drumcree

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The Independent Online
NORTHERN IRELAND could erupt into violence next week if the controversial Orange Order parade in Drumcree is banned tomorrow.

Senior Royal Ulster Constabulary sources have indicated that tomorrow's announcement by the Parades Commission - the consultative body that decides whether "traditional" Orange routes should be restricted - is likely to rule against the Portadown Orange Order.

This means that County Armagh Orange Lodge members will for the first time since 1807 be unable to march to and from their Sunday church service on 5 July. The Orangemen insist they have the right to march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road, whose residents have campaigned for the parade to be banned since the mid-1980s.

A senior Portadown Orangeman said: "I am very afraid that the whole Province could erupt if we are not allowed to walk next Sunday. You could see tens of thousands of people converging on Portadown in protest. Although we can control our own men there could be frustrated hangers-on who take matters into their own hands."

The Portadown Orange Order say they have been planning "for all eventualities" for months. "We have arranged tents, catering facilities and toilets. It's like preparing for battle," said one source. "We are prepared to stick our ground until we are allowed through. I know men who have pledged to die rather than give up their rights to march. We have tried talking. Now we must march, or the consequences will be very grave."

Since 1995 the Drumcree parade has caused yearly stand-offs, with riots and disturbances across the Province.

David Burrows, Deputy District Master of the Portadown Lodge, said: "We don't recognise the Parades Commission or any decision they might make."

Garvaghy Road residents say that should the parade be forced through they do not plan to keep the protest local, indicating that fellow nationalists will be asked to converge on the area.