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13 March 1997 Edition

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Another year of madness looms

By Stephen Delaney.

Loyalists intent on another summer of unrest and street violence are upping the ante by threatening to march through a predominantly Catholic housing estate in Ballmoney, County Antrim.

The Westgate estate has no history of Orange parades, and the march due in Easter has been organised to create a Drumcree-type stand-off.

The threat comes in the same week that it was revealed that the security cost of the Harryville protests are well over £1 million.

Last Saturday was the 26th week of protests at Harryville and parishioners were joined by a 60-strong delegation of women as part of the International Women's Day festivities.

The women were bombarded with a torrent of sectarian abuse and Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams was hit on the back with a rock. She was not seriously hurt in the attack. She described the 80 or so protesters as a very sad bunch and added, ``this whole protest is very shocking and should be stopped immediately''.

A resolution to this year's marching issue seems as far away as ever this week as the Orange Order picks up on the so-called revelations made in RTE's PrimeTime show. Joel Patton, a hardline figure in the Spirit of Drumcree pressure group within the Order, said he now doubted that rank and file Orangemen would accept any agreement with any of the residents' groups opposed to parades through their areas.

Meanwhile, the Bogside Residents' Group (BRG) has accused RTE of further putting their members' lives at risk by broadcasting the unchallenged views of DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson. The DUP man claimed on RTE Radio's This Week programme on Sunday 9 March that residents' groups opposed to Orange parades are orchestrated by the IRA and Sinn Féin.

Robinson said he would ``not submit to any Provo frontman to walk on the Queen's highway''.

A spokesperson for the BRG said, ``the dangerous accusations that Peter Robinson was allowed to broadcast unchallenged on RTE put the lives of spokespersons for the residents at risk. At a time when opinion poll after opinion poll indicates that the majority of people in the North want to see dialogue and a negotiated accommodation between marchers and residents to resolve the parades issue, RTE is uncritically helping to promote biased, intransigent and potentially murderous opinions''.
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