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10 September 1998 Edition

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RUC overrules Parades Commission

by Sean O'Tuama

A decision by the Parades Commission to ban a loyalist parade through the centre of Crumlin, County Antrim, was effectively overruled last Saturday by the RUC.

A number of bands entered the Orange Hall in the town centre and paraded around the grounds from early afternoon until almost midnight playing loyalist tunes. Throughout the day over 150 supporters were allowed to gather to cheer on the illegal parade. Despite the presence of members of the Parades Commission the RUC made no attempt to disperse the loyalist mob.

It was only late that night when nationalist residents assembled to protest at the illegal activity that the RUC acted and dispersed the loyalists.

Local residents were also dispersed but in ``a very heavy handed manner'' according to a spokesperson for the Crumlin Concerned Residents Group.

This resulted in two nationalists being arrested and two others being injured in the ensuing assault on them by the force.

South Antrim Sinn Fein member, Martin Meehan, said, ``It was clear from the behaviour of the RUC, who were in the town in large numbers, that they were intent on assisting the band and its supporters to find a way around the Commission's ruling.''

The RUC claimed they sealed off the town for over five hours to ``create a buffer zone'' to facilitate the illegal gathering.

Crumlin Young Loyalist spokesperson, Mark Harberson, protested that they had not been allowed to lay a wreath at the town's war memorial for the victims of the Omagh bomb. However it was young loyalists who, just hours earlier, had removed black flags from lampposts which had been placed there as a mark of respect to those same victims.

Meehan said congratulated the residents for ``their resilience and dignity in the face of the provocation in Crumlin.''

He stressed that the situation ``can only be resolved by dialogue. The residents have no problem with local Orange culture, but they don't want hundreds of bully boys from outside coming into their town.''
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