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26 June 1997 Edition

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Orange Order stoke the flames

Plans for provocative loyalist marching season


By Mick Naughton

As the Orange Order raises the temperature with plans for an increased number of parades through nationalist areas in the event of another Drumcree stand-off, nationalist communities are taking precautions to ensure basic supplies and services continue.

Notices to march by the Orange Order have flooded in. Potential flashpoints in the Belfast area include the Lower Ormeau and Markets areas in South Belfast.

There are plans to parade from the loyalist Sandy Row to Cromac Street on 7 and 10 July. Another is due to proceed from Carlisle Circus to Bedford Street and the Ormeau Road where the Orangemen plan to meet up with lodges from Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in the Upper Ormeau Road.

Similarly in North Belfast there are notices to march on The Tour of the North through nationalist areas from 6 July 6. This route was abandoned for over 20 years until last year when hundreds of nationalists were dragged off the Cliftonville Road by the RUC as they attempted to block the Orangemen.

Last weekend, a number of Orange marches passed off relatively peacefully in Keady, Mountfield, Bellaghy and Belfast.

Last Friday night in Newry an Orange march through the nationalist town was abandoned after a bomb scare along its intended route. This did not stop the RUC from attacking nationalist protestors who were batoned, kicked and punched. Hundreds of RUC with dozens of landrovers had sealed off a large part of central Newry hours before the scheduled time for the march, disrupting traffic in the town and preventing people from attending a drama commemorating the Famine in the Town Hall.

Also on Friday night hundreds of nationalists in the Carrickhill area of Belfast were imprisoned in their homes as a large Orange march dominated Carlisle Circus at Clifton and Donegall Street.

British army vehicles using massive screens blocked off residents. Local councillor Bobby Lavery said, ``Every year this happens and people can't leave their homes. British soldiers and the RUC are posted telling people to get back into their houses. If this was happening in America civil liberties groups would be able to mount a strong legal challenge. But due to the sectarian nature of this Orange state nationalists in the Carrickhill community are penned in like animals in Belfast zoo.''

In Mountfield, in Tyrone, a 100% nationalist village Orangemen were halted from marching as nationalist residents lined across the Orangemen's route. However as the Orangemen approached the village the RUC blocked them; after carrying out a protest they handed a letter to a senior RUC member then dispersed.

A spokesperson for the Mountfield Concerned Residents Committee said the people of the village voted to block the Orangemen 24 hours before the march: ``The facts of the matter are that Mountfield is completely nationalist and those who march through the village every fourth Sunday in June do not live locally.''

A similar picture emerged in the South Armagh village of Keady where during disturbances outside the local chapel last year a local man lost an eye when he was hit by an RUC plastic bullet.

Last Friday the Keady Residents Association had been told belatedly by the RUC that an Orange parade had been scheduled for Sunday at 3pm, half an hour after Orangemen were also due to march through Bellaghy, in South Derry.

Both towns saw a stand-off as the RUC set up lines separating the villagers from outside Orange marchers. Nationalists were furious at this tactic which effectively meant that their towns were sealed off and partitioned.

``This is a form of apartheid,'' was how one local woman summed up Bellaghy nationalist feelings. ``All we ask is that they sit down with us and talk. Then we could reach an agreement of sorts. By not talking they are treating this community with total contempt.''

Residents were also angry at comments made by leading Orangeman Bob Overend who issued a statement warning that he was unable to give ``assurances'' about Drumcree on 6 July.

Striding ahead of around 200 Orangemen Overend read out the statement before handing it to a senior RUC member.

``Our message is that the brethren of Bellaghy fully support the brethren of Portadown,'' shouted the Deputy Grand Master of Ireland.

The shadow of two years of sieges of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown hangs over these weekly attempts by the Orange Order to march where they are unwelcome and that situation took another development this week when Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition spokesperson and newly elected independent councillor Breandan MaCionnaith accused Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble of playing politics with the potential Drumcree crisis. He said that the refusal to talk was the key problem. MaCionnaith also revealed that for two years following Trimble and Paisley's ``Drumcree jig'' the Coalition have been waiting to talk, yet Trimble, their MP, has not responded to any of their letters.

``We want to see him demonstrate his sincerity on this issue and enter into dialogue with local residents. We have an agenda and Mr Trimble has an agenda. We can put them on the table and talk, that is what should happen,'' MacCionnaith said.

The Coalition also let it be known that last Friday 20 June they wrote to the main political parties in the 26 counties asking them to send observers to the district during the Drumcree march. Last year outgoing Taoiseach John Bruton angered residents when he refused to allow Fine Gael representatives to go to Portadown as observers.

Meanwhile in Derry the Apprentice Boys have rejected advice from the Parades Commission to hold talks with the Bogside Residents over plans to march on August 12. Following a meeting between residents spokesperson Donncha Mac Niallais and British Direct Ruler Marjorie Mowlam the residents appealed for direct talks with the Apprentice Boys organisation. Concern is also running high in Derry with the news that ``a Protestant group'' is to stage rallies on the City side of the Foyle each night between 6 and 12 July.
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