'White niggers' stunned by Orange victory

After four days of dramatic stand-off, the end of the siege of Drumcree came in a carpet factory.

Church leaders and two delegations, one from the Orangemen and one from Catholic residents, had gathered at 9am in the offices of Ulster Carpets, at the end of the Catholic Garvaghy Road.

Two senior churchmen - the Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Dr Robin Eames, and the Catholic primate Cardinal Cahal Daly - hoped to broker a last- minute deal to appease both sides over the marching route.

For more than two hours, Protestants and Catholics sat in separate rooms as churchmen shuttled between them, desperately looking for agreement. None came, and by 11.30am RUC Land-Rovers were already moving into the Garvaghy area.

At 11.45am, the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, took a call from church leaders to say the negotiations had failed. Within minutes, fearing people could die if the stand-off continued, he ordered that the march should go ahead through the Catholic area.

Rumours had swept both communities late on Wednesday that the end, negotiated or otherwise, was imminent. But when it came, its swiftness took a disbelieving Catholic community by surprise. A hastily arranged sit-in by 300 residents on the main marching route was forcibly removed by baton-wielding RUC officers who fired rounds of plastic bullets when they were challenged.

Claire Digim watched in horror. "They fired more rounds in 20 minutes at us than in four days at the Orangemen - and they were aiming for us."

Soldiers moved in to roll away barbed wire and up to 1,500 Portadown District Lodge members walked through four-abreast at 12.47pm.

"Keep your heads up", shouted supporters as the group, led by the Star of David Accordion Band, made up mainly of young girls, began to march.

There was no mood of celebration at this point, but within five minutes the mood electrified as the parade moved past Catholic houses.

One resident surveyed the marchers and said: "I have voted for the SDLP all my life, but now Sinn Fein will definitely get my vote. We're just second class citizens - white niggers."

The violence flared quickly. A group of youths, some in masks to hide their faces, pelted officers with stones and bottles from Churchill Road, and let off four petrol bombs. Police retaliated with baton rounds.

The Orangemen marched on with no sound, except the steady beat of a single drum.

But by the time the parade reached the Protestant area of Park Road, they were joined by thousands from other lodges who looked back and shouted and jeered at the Catholics. "This is a victory for us," said one. "Maybe the RUC will think twice before they ban it again."

The whole parade took just 23 minutes - but it left indelible scars for the locals. Oonagh Burke, 23, said: "We're leaving now and moving to the south or to a safer Catholic area. We just don't have any rights any more.

Youths from the estate were now in full-scale conflict with the RUC; four cars were set on fire, and missiles and fireworks descended on the officers.

Father Eamon Stack, who had been in the earlier negotiations, condemned the "heavy-handed" police tactics. "We have lost a great opportunity," he said. A local community leader, Brendan MacCionnaith, also at the talks, added: "We have been stitched up. Hopes of peace were batoned away in Garvaghy Road."

In heavy rain, the centre of Portadown returned to a semblance of normality as the Orangemen dispersed to prepare for last night's 11 July bonfire celebrations.

At Orange Hall, crates of beer and bottles of whisky were carried in. But one lodge member said they would be drinking none that afternoon. He said: "This is not a time for celebration, we do not want to rub their noses in it." A colleague added: "If Sir Hugh Annesley had let us do this on Sunday there would have been none of this hassle."

Back at the Church of Ascension, the scene of the stand-off at Drumcree, it was hard to believe that this church had been a flashpoint for Ulster's future. With the barbed wire and barricades gone, the route outside the graveyard looked like any other quiet country lane.

"It's just a church again," said one Orangeman as he took off his sash.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own